The curious case of Ken Hodges: your Democratic candidate for Attorney General

As has been noted of late in the AJC, Democrat Ken Hodges, candidate for Attorney General (Website | Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter) continues to be haunted by his actions last decade in a curious case of allegedly outrageous and improper actions undertaken by him in his capacity as then-District Attorney of Dougherty County.

The allegations, if true, call into serious and profound question the professionalism, honesty and capability of Ken Hodges to become the top law enforcement officer for Georgia.

But to understand the seriousness of the situation Hodges allegedly created for himself, let’s go back to the beginning.

In the first half of the last decade, Georgia surgeon Dr. John Bagnato and his accountant, Charles Rehberg, took issue with the billing practices of the local non-profit hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

The two of them were certain that they found irrefutable evidence that Putney was making hundreds of millions each year, charging unnecessarily high fees to their poor patients, all while their executives enjoyed handsome compensation and the hospital paid no taxes because of its non profit status. In February of 2004, the two of them decided to get this message out. In that month, on multiple occasions, Charles Rehberg ANONYMOUSLY sent out faxes to local business leaders and politicians.

But what exactly did Dr. Bagnato and Rehberg learn?

In effect, they found evidence to suggest Phoebe Putney failed to fulfill its charitable obligations as a tax-exempt entity.

Once executives at Phoebe Putney learned of these anonymous facsimile transmissions being sent around town, they allegedly contacted then-District Attorney Ken Hodges. With allegedly no knowledge of any illegal activity being perpetuated by the then unknown whistleblowers, Hodges issued a series of subpoenas on official letterhead from the Office of the District Attorney:

– On October 22, 2003 to Bell South
– On December 1, 2003 to Bell South
– On January 20, 2004 to Bell South
– On February 5, 2004 to Bell South
– On February 24, 2004 to Alltel
– On an unknown date during this time to Sprint

All subpoenas were issued for phone records related to telephone numbers for which Bagnato and Rehberg had access, or to telephone numbers which received the anonymous fax transmissions (like the office of Congressman Sanford Bishop). During this time an additional subpoena from Ken Hodges’ office (allegedly signed by Hodges himself) was also issued to internet service provider Exact Advertising, which produced to Hodges the personal and confidential e-mails from the personal computers of one of the whistle blowers.

[DOWNLOAD HODGES SUBPOENA FOR E-MAILS]

Remember, there was no indication at this point that anything illegal (that would require the District Attorney to investigate) had occurred.

But I digress. What was so curious about these subpoenas? Let’s look at the very first one issued.

[DOWNLOAD BELLSOUTH SUBPOENA]

What do we see here? Well, the document, filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court for Dougherty County on October 22, 2003 at 1:29 p.m. states that a Subpoena Compliance Officer is:

hereby required to be and appear at the Grand Jury for the Dougherty County Superior Court before the Honorable Loring Gray, Chief Judge of the Superior Court, in Room 216 of the Dougherty County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on the 5th day of November, 2003 and bring with you certain documents to be presented in a matter now pending; APD case #22-03-024016 (Harassing phone calls).

The other subpoenas take a similar lead from this one.

So what’s wrong with that? First, on the dates listed there was no Grand Jury meeting to consider any cases involving Dr. Bagnato or Charles Rehberg. Also, Harassing Phone Calls is a misdemeanor and not a felony (thus not requiring a Grand Jury to meet). It, per O.C.G.A. 16-11-39.1, requires someone to “telephone another person repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of annoying, harassing, or molesting another person of the family of such other person.”

Since neither Bagnato or Rehberg had sent their anonymous facsimile transmissions to any recipients to a degree that would be considered harassing, and with the clear fact that the subpoenas were issued containing a clear factual error regarding the impaneling of a Grand Jury, it is highly suspect what Ken Hodges’ motivations exactly were as his employees allegedly performed these tasks while in their official capacity.

Also highly unusual is that the result of the subpoenas (private e-mail messages and phone logs) were allegedly given to representatives of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. At least, attorneys in Albany who represented Phoebe Putney were sent bills for the retrieved records obtained as part of the subpoenas (of course, allegedly):

[LETTER FORWARDING OUTSTANDING BILLS]

As the information requested by subpoena from Ken Hodges’ office was reviewed, Charles Rehberg was sued by Phoebe Putney for 60 million dollars for defamation of character and harassment. The lawsuit, it should be noted, was later dismissed.

But Rehberg’s life took an unusual term when he was allegedly accosted by representatives of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in his own parking lot on the evening of August 9, 2004. These individuals, allegedly retired Federal agents, demanded that Rehberg accompany them to a meeting with Phoebe Putney representatives, threatened him with criminal prosecutions, mentioned his family by name and attempted to force him to sign an “Immunity Agreement” immediately.

So what did this “Immunity Agreement” say? Let’s review the first page of said document.

[CLICK TO DOWNLOAD IMMUNITY AGREEMENT]

WHEREAS, Phoebe Putney has been the target of a corporate campaign including anonymous facsimiles and other schemes designed to harm the business of Phoebe Putney and to create dissention between its Boards and management; and

WHEREAS, Rehberg has actively participated in the distribution of facsimiles and other information for purposes of harming Phoebe Putney and creating dissention between its Boards and management staff; and

WHEREAS, Phoebe Putney contends that Rehberg’s conduct violates both federal and state criminal statues; and

WHEREAS, Phoebe Putney has prepared civil litigation against Rehberg which includes claims for defamation, tortious interference with business relationships, RICO violations as well as other causes of action which, if successful, will result in personal liability of Rehberg for potentially millions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, Phoebe Putney has caused the District Attorney of Dougherty County, Georgia to open a case against those responsible for the facsimiles and other schemes designed to harm the business of Phoebe Putney and to create dissention between its Boards and management; and

WHEREAS, Rehberg and Phoebe Putney desire to resolve all criminal and civil claims which Phoebe Putney may have against Rehberg in exchange for Rehberg’s cooperation including, but not limited to, the identification and prosecution of other conspirators engaged in the schemes designed to harm Phoebe Putney’s business and to bring dissension between its Board and management;

NOW, THEREFORE, Phoebe Putney and Rehberg agree as follows:

1. Rehberg agrees that he shall cooperate by giving information and sworn testimony whenever requested to either law enforcement officials or representatives of Phoebe Putney[.]

Emphasis above is mine.

What is known is that the individuals who confronted Rehberg were not from Ken Hodges’ office. But they sure seem to know what is going on there, especially that “Phoebe Putney has caused the District Attorney of Dougherty County, Georgia to open a case against those responsible for the facsimiles and other schemes designed to harm the business of Phoebe Putney and to create dissention between its Boards and management[.]”

Huh. A non-profit hospital has compelled the elected District Attorney for Dougherty County to start an investigation? Most interesting and perplexing that people outside Ken Hodges’ office seem to know an awful lot about what is going on inside said office as they try to have someone sign a document that clearly is to the benefit of Phoebe Putney. All allegedly, of course.

This incident resulted in a letter from Rehberg’s attorney to Ken Hodges.

[DOWNLOAD LETTER TO HODGES]

In the missive from attorney Robert E. Mulholland, Hodges was formally put on notice about the alleged events of August 9, 2004 and asked to investigate.

And Ken Hodges, your Democrat candidate for Attorney General, did respond.

On December 14, 2005, Charles Rehberg was indicted on charges of aggravated assault, burglary and “harassing telephone calls” in Dougherty County, involving allegedly an interaction with Dr. James Hotz, affiliated with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. This indictment came without any investigation by the Albany Police Department or any other police agency.

Hodges’ Chief Investigator, James Paulk (the same guy who handled the subpoenas) later testified in a deposition the Albany Police Department wasn’t involved because of “lack of confidence in the City police department to handle it.” Interestingly, he handled the investigation allegedly without interviewing any witnesses or gathering any evidence. If he had done so, he would have learned that Rehberg had never even been to Hotz’s residence. (Don’t forget that in the subpoena above, issued by Paulk, he referenced Albany Police Department case number #22-03-024016 (Harassing phone calls). Strange how he could do so and then admit that APD wasn’t involved.)

But that didn’t stop the media spectacle of the arrest of whistleblower Charles Rehberg by Ken Hodges’ office.

What happened with this amazing case put together by Ken Hodges’ crack team? It was dismissed prior to a hearing concerning the legal sufficiency of the indictment.

But that doesn’t stop the prosecutions. While Hodges’ has rescued himself from the matter by this point, he allegedly was still working in the background with regard to this matter.

Thus, a second indictment was issued against Rehberg (again involving the same alleged victim) on February 16, 2006 which included charges of simple assault and harassing telephone calls.

As before, the defense filed motions attacking the legal sufficiency of the indictment due to the fact that Rehberg still had never been to Hotz’s home and there was no evidence to support the matter proceeding. On April 10, 2006, the prosecution announced a second time that they would dismiss the matter. For some reason, though, they didn’t do so. It wasn’t until July 7, 2006 that the Superior Court of Dougherty County dismissed the indictment based upon the statement from the prosecution in open court.

Think we’re done yet?

A third indictment was secured against Rehberg, again for “simple assault” and harassing telephone calls.” Can you guess what happened? Yup, Judge Harry Altman issued orders dismissing the charges again against Rehberg.

Say, did I mention that Ken Hodges’ wife, Melissa Hodges, worked for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital? She’s listed on an employee list here and also was very visible in her role with the Hospital.

Although the dates above on the web page found are more recent, she had been a Phoebe Putney employee throughout this ordeal.

Did I also mention that Ken Hodges, while District Attorney, received campaign contributions from Phoebe Putney?

Surely I must have mentioned that Ken Hodges is now employed by Baudino Law Group, which counts as one of its main clients Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany?

I didn’t? Well, now you know.

Sick of the alleged abuse of power from Ken Hodges’ office, Rehberg sued Hodges (among others) in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia accusing him of an illegal and improper abuse of power. Hodges, represented ironically enough by the Attorney General of Georgia (the very office he aspires to run), made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. That motion was denied by the District Court.

[DOWNLOAD ORDER DENYING HODGES’ MOTION]

This last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard Hodges’ appeal of the lower court denial of his motion. That is where the case currently sits, awaiting a decision from the jurists there.

A most curious case this is where Hodges allegedly is involved in matters for which his office in Albany had no interests and for which he has yet to give a true accounting of his actions. One also must wonder if this is the type of man Georgia needs as its top law enforcement officer and who he could act in similar fashion against if given the opportunity to hold such office.

But this story is not yet complete. Check back later this week for more on this matter and a candidate for Governor who has been trying to get to the bottom of these allegations concerning community hospitals for awhile.

43 comments

  1. polisavvy says:

    Wow! That was an amazing post. Thank you for sharing this with us and for shedding light on Candidate Hodges’ past. As Ricky Ricardo would say, “Ken, you got some ‘plaining to do.”

  2. Over_It says:

    Yeah, a lot of funny business went on with regards to this story.
    It’s sad but this behaviour has been going on in Albany for awhile and as the saying goes “old habits die hard”! This story also made it to TIME magazine. Sometimes I wonder if Ken Hodges thought the former 1 party system in our state would always be the norm??

    I think I remember some of the big shots at this non-profit hospital were also chartering private jets, stayed at The Ritz in London; as well as a round of golf at St. Andrews! If I’m not mistaken it was all billed to the hospital. Your tax dollars at work folks!

    • Jack Smith says:

      Heard the one about Hodges driving too fast in the rain, flipping his SUV and nearly killing his chief assistant DA a couple of years back? You can probably guess that he wasn’t charged….it’s what some of us call the “silver spoon effect.”

  3. inlimine says:

    Business as usual by a strong handed egotistical politician in South Georgia. Thanks for the exposure. I seriously doubted Hodges as a threat to win this race, but he should be called out and ashamed of his actions in connection with this matter, and others. Nice work, Pete.

  4. AthensRepublican says:

    Has he won re-election since this story first came out? What is this guy’s elective history? I agree with the comments above, I don’t think this guy is going any further.

    • polisavvy says:

      You might could say, “put a fork in him, he’s done.” This certainly won’t help his chances very much. He can’t deny and it would be impossible to explain away.

  5. B Balz says:

    I agree with the accolades, Pete, and want to add my own.

    One major advantage of internet news over traditional Main Stream media (MSM) is the ability to create hyperlinks within the story. This allows the author of a well crafted story to augment the entire piece with ‘living footnotes’. These hyperlinks create a rich story tapestry.

    Well crafted, excellent job. I am inspired!

    • Jack Smith says:

      I have remarked on this race before. I will do so again. Ken Hodges IS, without a doubt, the most vile and corrupt individual now running for statewide office in Georgia. If he is elected AG, you can be guaranteed that he will corrupt the office and shamelessly misuse its powers to pursue petty, personal vendettas while prostituting the AG’s services to and for the highest bidder.

      Shouldn’t that lack of character disqualify someone from the highest law-enforcement office in Georgia? Well, he’s neck and neck with Teilhet in funding and stands a strong chance of being the Democratic nominee. I humbly beg everyone and anyone who has any personal decency or sense of justice to vote in the July Democratic primary against this individual. Georgia can’t afford filth such as Ken Hodges in statewide office.

      • AthensRepublican says:

        Thanks to Pete Randall and people like you that have called attention to Hodges, his chances of winning are getting slimmer everyday. I won’t be voting in the Democratic primary but I don’t think Hodges will beat Teilhet. Good work on exposing this thug.

  6. Glen Ross says:

    Great job, Pete. I hope Mr. Hodges enjoys this campaign. It’s the last we’ll see of him for a while, I’m sure.

  7. CajunJoe says:

    I looked at the last tax return Phoebe filed, it showed Baudino Firm getting about $8.8 MILLION dollars from Phoebe in ONE YEAR. Baudin is a small firm–how can that even be possible? When you research Hodges law partner, you will find Baudino was suspended from practice by the Iowa Supreme Court for 6 months for ethics violations, as seen here https://www.iacourtcommissions.org/icc/AttachmentHelper.do?id=2338 . Seems Hodges and Baudino should make great partners. I think Ken Hodges should not be allowed to hide behind prosecutorial immunity. The court may let him off on it, but we can hold him accountable at the voting booth. Great post here, shows a lot of work that the mainstream press can’t or won’t do.

  8. Dave Bearse says:

    Great post. With Teilhet the alternative, here’s hoping Baker reconsiders and runs for re-election.

  9. Republican Lady says:

    I wonder if the FBI could investigate this as an Oath of Office Violation by a public official or even a Civil Right’s violation by a public official. Any lawyers on here who can answer that?

    • Hugh Dunnett says:

      They certainly could, the oath in question is recited at O.C.G.A. § 15‐18‐2 as follows: The district attorney shall take the following oath: ‘I do swear that I will faithfully and impartially and without fear, favor, or affection discharge my duties as district attorney and will take only my lawful compensation. So help me God.’

      The allegations certainly indicate violation of oath by the actions of Hodges. That said, the FBI will never look into this, in spite of the egregious violations of civil rights and violation of oath of office. I have been told that one of the asst. U.S. Attorneys in Albany worked under Hodges, and the same AUSAs wife ran at least one of Hodges’ campaigns for DA in Albany.

  10. Eddie Byrd says:

    I have personal experience with Ken Hodges and Phoebe: I was an independent newspaper publisher in Albany at the time uncovering all this crap. In retaliation, Phoebe and Hodges marshalled their vendors/supporters in an ad ban against the newspaper, ensuring our demise and quieting our voice.

    Hodges/Phoebe admin are cockroaches who under cover of darkness produce their larvae of boundless personal ambition and greed unbesmirched by any iota of integrity or honesty. Georgia will rue the day it elects Hodges as AG.

    Thanks for a post that sets an excrucitatingly high bar for other bloggers to follow.

  11. AtticusGa says:

    Folks, Hodges did what a prosecutor is supposed to do — he investigated criminal conduct. Any prosecutor worth is salt is going to make some enemies after 12 years in office if he is doing his job.

    Why were these guys blanketing a hospital fax machine with anonymous faxes anyway? What has not been reported in the AJC or on this site is that these so – called “Phoebe whistleblowers” were working with the Mississippi tobacco plaintiffs lawyer, Dickey Scruggs, in lawsuits seeking millions of dollars from public hospitals. Scruggs is now in federal prison for bribing judges.

    • polisavvy says:

      Just curious how you are trying to link this to Dick Scruggs. If you wouldn’t mind explaining this connection I would appreciate it. I followed the Scruggs case pretty closely. Thanks for any information you wouldn’t mind sharing.

    • A Moree says:

      There were no crimes committed. That’s the point. The investigation was done as a favor to Phoebe, plain and simple.

    • ByteMe says:

      Folks, Hodges did what a prosecutor is supposed to do — he investigated criminal conduct.

      Sending faxes around alerting people to wrongdoing at a corporation is not considered “criminal conduct” subject to a DA’s attention. At best, it’s considered something for a civil suit, but that would be a personal matter between the hospital and those sending around the faxes.

      If Hodges was really “worth [h]is salt” as you say, then he would have said “Not a criminal case for our office” and walked away. But he didn’t. He (ab)used the power of the government to get revenge on behalf of a campaign contributor and his wife’s employer.

    • polisavvy says:

      AtticusGa, you are correct about Dickie Scruggs. I have heard that the documentary called, “Do No Harm,” makes mention of him and his connection to this whole debacle. Thanks for the heads up yesterday — greatly appreciated.

  12. Frank Lee says:

    Where is the Ga Bar on all of this? Nijong lost his license when he tried to fabricate a crime. That is what Hodges tried to do. He should lose his license to practice law.

    • CajunJoe says:

      Certainly sounds that way. See post of Hugh Dunnett above. He can’t say it was without “favor” when he prosecuted these men. Think about it–he is an officer of the court and he issued “Grand Jury” subpoenas when there was no Grany Jury? Fraud on the court, perhaps? Seems like plenty of grounds for the Georgia Bar to examine Ken Hodges. But how many lawyer does Georgia dicipline? Very few I think.

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