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November 22, 2014

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Former UMC chief’s misconduct case ends in mistrial

New jury will hear the case later this year

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Lacy Thomas, former CEO of University Medical Center, watches the jury enter the courtroom at the beginning of his trial on charges of theft and misconduct Tuesday, March 23, at the Regional Justice Center.

Updated Friday, April 2, 2010 | 12:39 p.m.

The judge presiding over the trial of former University Medical Center boss Lacy Thomas granted a mistrial Friday morning.

Thomas’ attorney, Dan Albregts, moved for a mistrial after obtaining a binder of information earlier this week. After arguments Friday, District Court Judge Michael P. Villani granted the motion, saying the documents inside the binder could have contained or led to the discovery of exculpatory evidence, which is evidence that is favorable to the defendant.

Thomas was “substantially prejudiced by the lack of disclosure,” Villani said in issuing his ruling.

The binder in question contained more than 500 pages of documents related to ACS Healthcare systems. Metro Police had obtained the binder in the course of their investigation into the contracts at UMC, but because investigators didn’t find wrongdoing on the part of ACS, they didn’t give the documents to prosecutors, Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Mitchell said.

He hadn’t seen the binder until the motion was filed to admit it into evidence, he said.

In addition to ACS, which was the largest contract and the main focus of testimony so far, other contracts mentioned in the indictment pertain to Frasier Systems Group, TBL Construction, Premier Alliance Management and Crystal Communications.

Albregts and prosecutors declined to comment on the judge’s ruling after the conclusion of Friday’s proceedings.

Villani noted in his ruling that he found no intentional misconduct by prosecutors.

A new jury will hear the case later this year, Villani said. A status check on setting the new trial was set for Thursday.

The trial began March 22 and was expected to conclude next week.

Prosecutors Mitchell and Michael Staudaher are also handling the endoscopy cases set to go to trial later this year, so they weren’t sure when a trial date might be set.

Thomas has been out of custody on bond since shortly after being arrested. After granting the mistrial, Villani agreed to exonerate Thomas’ bond and granted an own-recognizance release.

Thomas led Chicago’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, formerly called Cook County Hospital, for 10 years before being recruited to come to UMC.

He came under indictment in February 2008 and was facing 10 felony charges -- five counts of felony theft and five counts of felony misconduct of a public officer.

Mitchell said in his opening statement the former hospital boss cost the county $11 million in taxpayer funds during his three years at the helm of UMC through no-bid or irregular contracts given to Thomas' Chicago associates or friends.

The 10 counts of the indictment stem from Thomas’ tenure at the helm of UMC, which was from 2004 until he was fired in January 2007. County auditors said the hospital had run a $34.3 million deficit the year before Thomas was fired.

But Albregts told the jury that prosecutors wanted to blame Thomas for the county’s own failures with the hospital, which was a money drain when Thomas was hired.

Albregts argued that investigators had assumed they would find evidence that Thomas had been getting kickbacks from awarding the contracts, but even after combing through his bank accounts they found no evidence Thomas got any cut of money paid for the contracts.

Defense attorneys said the indictment was a result of needing to justify the extensive man-hours and amount of money put into investigating Thomas.

If convicted, he could have spent decades in prison.

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