Motion filed to recuse district attorney in case against former California hospital executives

Attorneys for three executives of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, a hospital management firm based in Tulare, Calif., are accusing Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward of biased prosecution — claims that, depending on court action, could force the recusal of Mr. Ward's office from cases against the executives, the Valley Voice reported Dec. 15.

Attorneys representing HCCA CEO Yorai "Benny" Benzeevi, MD, CFO Alan Germany and the company's lawyer Bruce Greene filed a motion to recuse the district attorney Dec. 13 in Tulare County Superior Court.

The motion, published online by the Valley Voice, alleges that Mr. Ward chose the defendants for prosecution to counter the public narrative that he was showing favoritism toward Dr. Benzeevi, a major donor and friend. Attorneys also claim Mr. Ward was a friend and supporter of Dr. Benzeevi and his company since before HCCA began managing the Tulare Local Healthcare District.

"District Attorney Ward's relationship with HCCA and Dr. Benzeevi — compounded by his prejudicial public statements for political gain — create two disqualifying conflicts for the Tulare County District Attorney's Office," the motion states. "As demonstrated by District Attorney Ward and his office's conduct in these proceedings to date, Defendants have not and cannot receive a fair investigation or prosecution, and therefore the entire office must be disqualified from prosecuting all defendants."

Dr. Benzeevi, through HCCA, began operating Tulare Regional Medical Center in 2014. The hospital filed for bankruptcy and closed in 2017, and Dr. Benzeevi was ousted that year. The hospital reopened in 2018 under a management agreement with Roseville, Calif.-based Adventist Health. 

In 2020, charges were filed against Dr. Benzeevi, CFO Mr. Germany and  Mr. Greene, HCCA's attorney, related to alleged mismanagement and their time at HCCA. Dr. Benzeevi was the CEO of Tulare Regional and Mr. Germany was acting CFO of Tulare Regional and Inyo Hospital in Lone Pine, Calif.

Last year, a judge refused to dismiss charges against the former hospital executives, including charges for alleged grand theft and embezzlement by a public officer.  

Mr. Ward's office told the Valley Voice in a statement that it does not believe there is a conflict to warrant recusal.

"On Dec. 13, 2022, the office of the district attorney received the initial motion to recuse. However, [later] we received approximately 1,400 additional pages. We are in the process of evaluating the defense arguments; however, the Office does not believe a conflict exists with this matter," the statement reads.

"We have been in communication with the state attorney general's office and will continue to work with them moving forward in opposing this motion," the statement continues. "…Once the office of the district attorney has had sufficient time to review the materials and coordinate with the attorney general's office a formal response will be submitted to the court."

Read more here.

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