JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Rejecting arguments that the amount is too high, a federal judge on Wednesday ruled that a physician who bribed Mississippi’s former prisons chief should have to forfeit nearly $1.3 million.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan III found that’s a fair amount for Dr. Carl Reddix to turn over after he paid $187,500 in bribes to onetime Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps to secure contracts to provide health care for inmates that ultimately netted $2.5 million for the company he half-owns.
“Bribery is a serious breach of the public trust and the forfeiture amount is a sliver of the actual contracts Reddix unlawfully secured,” Jordan wrote. “In fact, the forfeiture amount is directly proportional to Reddix’s ownership interest in the proceeds of the offense.”
Reddix agreed to forfeit some money in his May guilty plea, but argued the amount set by probation officers was so high, it violates his constitutional right to be free from excessive fines.
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The judge, however, quoted a presentencing report that finds that Reddix and his company, Health Assurance LLC, received $2.5 million in net benefit from the Mississippi Department of Corrections. That calculation isn’t the same as profit — instead, the government subtracted the company’s $29 million in direct costs from $32 million in revenue. The government wants Reddix to forfeit half the $2.5 million because he owns half of the company.
The judge rejected arguments that he couldn’t hold Reddix liable for the whole amount, entering what’s called a money judgment, even if Reddix doesn’t have that much cash and property. He also rejected Reddix’s claim that the forfeiture penalty was disproportional to other recommended punishments, including a fine between $15,000 and $150,000 and prison sentence of nine to 10 years.
Reddix argued that the state still owes him $1.2 million in pharmacy bills and kept $100,000 in company equipment. He also argued that Health Assurance performed medical services required under the contract and Mississippi lost no money. Jordan, though, said that’s not the right standard.
“The question is not whether Reddix performed under the contracts, but whether he bribed a public official to obtain them,” the judge wrote. “The public has a right to an above-board bidding process.”
Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence. Eight other people including Reddix have been convicted so far.
Reddix’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to an email late Wednesday seeking comment.
The judge wrote that he will consider the large forfeiture in sentencing, meaning, the fine and jail time could be lower. He directed Reddix and prosecutors to agree to the details of a forfeiture order within 10 days, after which he’ll set a sentencing date.
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