An attempt from former Healthcare Conglomerate Associates executives to remove the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office from the case was denied.
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward will continue to prosecute the case after the court found that his previous friendship with one of the defendants is not a conflict of interest.
The backstory: Healthcare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA) operated the former Tulare Regional Medical Center from 2013-2017.
- Former HCCA CEO Yorai “Benny” Benzeevi, former HCCA CFO Alan Germany and attorney Bruce Greene were charged with a litany of charges – including grand theft, conspiracy, money laundering, embezzlement and conflict of interest – for their involvement with the Tulare hospital.
- Benzeevi was a major donor to Ward’s campaigns for district attorney and claimed that Ward only prosecuted Benzeevi and the other executives after significant public pressure from the community and the media.
- The defendants also argued that Ward was incentivized to prosecute Benzeevi harsher than usual because of their friendship.
The big picture: Judge Michael Shetlzer ruled earlier this month that Ward and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office can remain on the case, instead of handing it off to the California Department of Justice.
- The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office argued that the so called friendship shared by Ward and Benzeevi was blown out of proportion by the defendants.
- The defendants also requested an evidentiary hearing if their motion to remove Ward failed, yet Sheltzer also denied that request.
What they’re saying: In his ruling, Sheltzer wrote that there is not any evidence to support a closer relationship than that of donor to candidate.
- “The court agrees with the prosecution and the evidence supports their characterization of DA Ward and the defendant as ‘candidate and campaign contributor.’ The defendant was not an active fundraiser for DA Ward and was merely a significant donor,” Sheltzer wrote.
- Sheltzer added, “It was a professional relationship that at the time benefited them both.”