Jury selection in the public corruption case against four former Schneider Regional Medical Center officials moved forward as planned Monday after a ruling from the V.I. Supreme Court cut off any attempts to once again postpone the trial.
Though the charges against former hospital heads Rodney Miller Sr. and Amos Carty Jr., along with former Chief Financial Officer Peter Najawicz and hospital board chairwoman June A. Adams have been amended and reworked several times, the case against them has been pending since 2008.
Along with charging Miller, Carty and Najawicz with multiple counts of conspiracy and embezzlement under the territory’s Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, Adams is also facing perjury and aiding and abetting charges for allegedly using her position on the board to help the men defraud the hospital of millions of dollars.
The charges against the group stem from a 2008 joint local and federal audit that revealed the hospital executives received hefty compensation packages approved by Schneider Regional board members. At the end of his five years at the helm of the hospital, Miller had allegedly racked up close to $3.8 million in salary and associated perks, while Carty and Najawicz were receiving thousands more than the $80,000 salaries included in their NOPAs (Notice of Personnel Action) — documents that show, among other things, what government employees were paid.
In addition to approving the packages, the report said that board members deliberately withheld documents and other information from investigators while the audit was ongoing.
After being postponed several times, jury selection for the trial was scheduled for Monday morning, but both prosecuting and defense attorneys had requested a delay through motions filed last week in V.I. Supreme Court.
At the heart of the matter is a defense motion to remove prosecuting attorney Denise George-Counts from the case — a motion that was denied by V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael Dunston, and subsequently appealed by Miller’s camp.
Last week, the government and Miller attorney Bennett Chan filed motions with the V.I. Supreme Court to hold off on jury selection and the trial until the appeal is settled. In its explanation to the court, the government said its motion — which also asks the Supreme Court to "expedite" its decision on the appeal — centers on the possible conflicts that could arise if a jury was selected and sworn in before a ruling is made.
"The issue presented in the People’s petition is that by proceeding with jury selection and trial without regard to this court’s May 2, 2011 order, jeopardy will attach and the people could be placed in a position that would be highly prejudicial if this honorable court finds in favor of the appellant in reference to his appeal," according to the motion.
The third floor of V.I. Superior Court was packed to capacity Monday morning as both witnesses and jurors awaited word on the court’s decision, which came down — according to documents available online — at 9:47 a.m. The order denied both motions, and jury selection went on as planned, starting around 10 a.m.
Attorneys in the case said it is most likely that the trial will begin Thursday morning with opening arguments.
The Source will continue to report on any new developments as they unfold.