JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A physician who paid $187,500 in bribes to Mississippi's prisons chief was sentenced to six years in prison on Friday, a lighter term than what he could have received.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan said that Dr. Carl Reddix needed a substantial punishment after bribing Christopher Epps, the Mississippi Corrections Commissioner at the time, to get and keep contracts to provide inmate medical care through his Health Assurance company.
"The scope, nature and significance of the crime is just too serious to impose a sentence lower than the one I would impose," Jordan said.
But Jordan found that the eight to 10 years recommended by federal guidelines was too much for the 59-year-old Reddix, considering his history of charitable and community service, as well as the sentences of others. Prosecutors recommended Reddix serve seven years.
Jordan also fined Reddix $15,000 and ordered him to forfeit nearly $1.3 million, scheduling him to report to prison on Jan. 29. Prosecutors filed a motion Friday asserting the government's right to seize his houses, cars, land and bank accounts.
At sentencing, Reddix and his lawyers revealed that the commissioner had demanded that the doctor hire an unnamed lobbyist in 2007. Epps was getting kickbacks from lobbyists hired by prison contractors. Reddix refused, and Epps backed down after then-House Speaker Billy McCoy intervened. But Reddix said Epps, at a 2012 meeting, demanded monthly bribes, threatening he would delay payments to Health Assurance.
A friend argued that Reddix should get a light sentence, asserting that the loss of his medical license, business and reputation already amounted to substantial punishment.
"I'm asking that you be merciful, to be honest," said Walter Johnson, a lawyer who testified as a character witness. "The guy has already lost everything."
Dozens of Reddix's relatives and friends attended the sentencing hearing. The judge said he received more than 100 letters supporting him.
Prosecutors, though, noted that Reddix paid Epps increasing monthly amounts for more than two years as Health Assurance gained more business.
"This wasn't a mistake or a one-time occurrence," U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a statement. "Sadly, it was simply greed, coupled with callousness for our government, public institutions and the criminal justice system."
Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence. Nine people have been convicted so far, and insurance broker Guy "Butch" Evans is set for trial in January.
There were also questions about Health Assurance payments to counties in Mississippi and Alabama.
Alabama health care consultant Michael Goddard pleaded guilty in April to lying to the FBI concerning money Health Assurance paid him related to an inmate health care contract in Jefferson County, Alabama, which includes Birmingham. Goddard was sentenced to two years of probation.
Robert Simmons was sentenced to more than seven months in prison after pleading guilty to passing bribes from Health Assurance to a Mississippi Gulf Coast official in exchange for a jail medical contract. Former Harrison County Supervisor William Martin killed himself in 2015, hours before he was due in federal court on bribery charges.