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Bobo retrial: Jury hears opening arguments

TUSCALOOSA (AP) — A jury heard opening arguments Monday in the retrial of Dr. Phillip Bobo, accused on Medicaid fraud charges in a scandal that developed under former Gov. Don Siegelman.

The government claims Siegelman and others arranged for $550,000 to be set aside at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa so Bobo could pay bribes to keep competitors from bidding on lucrative contracts to provide care for poor, pregnant women in West Alabama. Bobo was medical director of the school.

"He didn't want to play by the rules," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Hart said of Bobo during opening statements.

A lawyer for the doctor said prosecutors were trying to make Bobo's legitimate
business activities seem like crimes.

"Attaching words to innocent conduct does not make it criminal," said defense attorney Bill Clark.

Bobo received the Medicaid contract for health care despite having a price that was $1 million above the low bid.

The low bidder challenged the selection of Bobo, who was a Siegelman supporter.

Fraud accusations

Bobo is accused of health care fraud, wire fraud, witness tampering, perjury and lying to federal agents.

The judge has said the trial could last three weeks.

Federal jurors convicted Bobo in 2001 of rigging bids on state Medicaid contracts, but the case was thrown out on appeal.

The physician was indicted again in 2004 with Siegelman and another aide, but prosecutors dropped charges against Siegelman and the aide, Paul Hamrick, after a judge barred prosecutors from using much of their evidence.

Siegelman and former HealthSouth Corp. Richard Scrushy are serving time in federal prison after being convicted in a state bribery scheme unrelated to the charges against Bobo.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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