- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A physician accused of bribing Mississippi’s former prisons chief says charges against him should be dismissed because prosecutors can’t prove the corrections official did anything to improperly influence prison medical contracts awarded to the doctor’s company.

Lisa Ross, a lawyer for Dr. Carl Reddix, wrote in the Tuesday filing that former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps was not a member of the selection committee that awarded early contracts to Health Assurance - Reddix’s company. She also wrote that the government failed to claim in its July indictment that Epps did anything to influence or pressure other Corrections Department officials to choose Health Assurance.

“The indictment does not outline any specific ‘official act’ Epps took or promised to take for Reddix/Health Assurance,” Ross wrote.

Federal prosecutors have yet to reply to the motion.

Ross relies heavily on a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that overturned the bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and made it harder for federal prosecutors to convict people in public-official bribery cases.

The court found that McDonnell, although he set up meetings and organized events for people who were lavishing him with $165,000 in gifts and loans, didn’t perform any “official act” that met the legal requirements of him doing something in exchange for a bribe.

In recent weeks, Reddix has also sought to subpoena materials from two private prison firms, the prison medical contractor that succeeded Health Assurance, and the Corrections Department. All those entities have asked U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan to throw out the subpoenas.

Reddix was indicted on six counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud. Prosecutors say Reddix passed cash bribes to Epps from 2012 to 2014 in exchange for health care contracts at four privately run Mississippi state prisons. The indictment says the bribes started at $6,000 a month, eventually rising as high as $9,500 a month.

Reddix has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial May 22. The physician remains free on $10,000 bail, and faces up to 80 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines if convicted.

An Alabama consultant for Reddix’s company is scheduled to plead guilty on April 18 in Birmingham federal court to lying to FBI agents about a Health Assurance contract at the Jefferson County Jail, which houses inmates from an area that includes Birmingham.

Michael P. Goddard of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, admitted in a plea agreement filed in February that he received money from Health Assurance in connection with the care of inmates at the Jefferson County Jail. The plea agreement states that Goddard lied to FBI agents in an August interview, saying monthly payments he received weren’t related to Health Assurance.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/JeffAmy .


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