WICHITA, KAN. — A federal judge has found a Kansas doctor guilty of criminal contempt of court for talking loudly and interrupting the judge during an initial appearance on charges related to a $7 million Army fraud and bribery indictment, court documents show.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson sentenced Heidi Lynn Webster to 30 days in jail that will be added to any sentence she receives if convicted in the underlying Texas case accusing her of medical equipment contract fraud.
Documents filed Monday contend Webster, 50, of Manhattan, Kan., repeatedly “spoke loudly” and interrupted the judge during Friday’s hearing in Topeka. Robinson said in her order that Webster’s outbursts prevented the court from advising her of the charges or her rights. The judge said the “misbehavior” in the presence of the court obstructed the administration of justice.
Webster’s attorney, Louis Caskey of Kansas City, filed a motion Tuesday asking the court to reconsider the contempt finding, saying Webster’s “conduct and demeanor was a result of panic and shock from being arrested.” He noted she had never been arrested before and has now retained local counsel to help her answer any questions the court might have.
“Defendant is remorseful and wishes to make an apology to the court for her conduct,” Caskey wrote.
Her former attorney, Dan Guthrie Jr. of Dallas, said Tuesday he was not at the Kansas hearing that led to the contempt finding, but quipped that “you don’t step on Superman’s cape,” a reference to a popular line in a Jim Croce song.
Webster was an Army officer physician from 1995 until 2006, specializing in radiology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and at Irwin Army Community Hospital at Fort Riley, Kan. After leaving the military, she formed two Kansas corporations — MRI Resources Inc. in 2007 and Pro Veteran Staffing Inc. in 2008 — and registered them as defense contractors.
She is charged along with retired Army Master Sgt. Lawrence Peter Fenti of New Braunfels, Texas — whom she met while in the service — and San Antonio businessman John Walter Hoffman in a wide-ranging indictment returned Wednesday alleging a conspiracy to defraud the United States. The government contends in a 40-count indictment that the alleged scheme involved bribing Army personnel, lying to Army officials, presenting false invoices, and laundering money from the crimes.
Guthrie, who represented the doctor prior to the indictment, said his former client had been aware of the federal investigation that led to last week’s indictment being handed down by a grand jury in Texas, where the case will be heard.
“Dr. Webster has adamantly denied her guilt on the charges contained in the indictment,” Guthrie said. “Beyond that, I can’t comment because I don’t currently represent her.”
The indictment alleges Webster and Fenti formed a corrupt partnership in which Fenti would, in return for a share of the profits, use his Army position of trust to steer Army contracts and subcontracts to Webster and her companies. It also contends they fraudulently used confidential Army information for personal profit.