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October 30, 2014

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New trial for former UMC chief set for August

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Lacy Thomas, former CEO of University Medical Center, laughs with his attorney, Daniel Albregts, during a break in his trial Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at the Regional Justice Center.

The trial for former University Medical Center boss Lacy Thomas has been reset for August.

A jury was seated and heard two weeks of arguments in the case against Thomas, who is accused of theft and misconduct while at the helm of UMC, but the judge granted a mistrial Friday after an issue with discovery developed in the middle of the trial.

A new trial date was set for Aug. 2.

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

The 10 counts stem from Thomas’ tenure at the helm of UMC from 2004 until he was fired in January 2007.

Last week, District Court Judge Michael P. Villani granted a mistrial after Thomas' attorney, Dan Albregts, obtained a binder of information that contained more than 500 pages of documents related to ACS Healthcare Systems.

Contracts awarded to ACS, also known as Superior Consulting, are singled out in the indictment, along with contracts that pertain to Frasier Systems Group, TBL Construction, Premier Alliance Management and Crystal Communications.

Villani ruled the documents could have contained or led to the discovery of exculpatory evidence that could have been beneficial to Thomas’ defense.

Prosecutors said last week Metro Police had obtained the binder in the course of their investigation into the contracts at UMC but hadn’t given the documents to prosecutors because they didn’t find any wrongdoing in regard to ACS.

Villani today ordered a meeting between prosecutors, Albregts and the lead detective on the case to discuss the evidence.

Villani further asked prosecutors to consult with attorneys in the civil division of the District Attorney’s office about any discovery or pleadings that might be available regarding the civil suit pertaining to ACS.

A status check on discovery was set for May 4.

Albregts said he intends to file a motion to dismiss the case against Thomas. Villani gave him a deadline of May 11 to file that motion.

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

Prosecutors say Thomas’ three-year tenure at UMC cost the county $11 million in taxpayer funds through no-bid or irregular contracts he gave to his Chicago associates or friends.

County auditors said the hospital had run a $34.3 million deficit the year before Thomas was fired.

Albregts says Thomas is being blamed for the county’s own failures with the hospital, which was a money drain when Thomas was hired.

He argued to the jury that the indictment was a result of needing to justify the extensive man-hours and amount of money put into investigating Thomas.

If convicted, Thomas could spend decades in prison.

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