|Thursday, October 02, 2003
Incongruity in documents puts witness' testimony in question during Knox trial
|One expert's testimony may have less impact after the defense called into question inconsistencies between his resume and school transcripts.
By JEN McCAFFERY
THE ROANOKE TIMES
You just don't know when those academic transcripts are going to come back to haunt you.
An expert witness for the prosecution in the trial against Roanoke pain specialist Cecil Byron Knox and three of his associates was forced Wednesday to confront what one defense attorney argued were discrepancies concerning his educational background, previous employment and military record.
George Alex's testimony was not the first time defense attorneys were able to raise significant questions about a witness' credibility in the case.
Alex testified for federal prosecutors Rusty Fitzgerald and Pat Hogeboom about coding for medical billing in the case against Knox and his associates, Beverly Gale Boone, Willard Newbill James and Kathleen O'Gee. Alex, 39, is managing partner of a Baltimore medical coding company called Iatro . Three people work for the company, Alex said in an interview after testifying.
But on cross-examination, defense attorney David Damico raised questions about inconsistencies between Alex's academic transcripts and one version of his resume.
Damico, who represents James, said after the court proceedings Wednesday that the defense team had subpoenaed documents to verify that the information on Alex's resumes was correct. He said they noticed some discrepancies between the documents they had obtained and two versions of Alex's resume.
"We felt that the jury should be aware of these discrepancies and his explanation of them when judging his credibility as an expert witness," Damico said.
But Alex said in an interview after the court testimony that he attended college roughly 20 years ago and that despite his poor academic record, he became an expert in medical coding through on-the-job training. He added that he is now an instructor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He has also written about 20 books on medical coding, according to the resume he submitted to the court.
The defense team got access to an earlier version of Alex's resume after private investigator David Williams subpoenaed records from when Alex worked as assistant director of faculty practice at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.
That resume says Alex attended the University of Utah from 1984 to 1989 and that he was in the pre-medicine program.
But Alex's transcripts from the University of Utah showed that he took classes in 1981, 1984 and 1985. He received no credit for the courses he took, according to the transcript. Alex failed or withdrew from beginning painting, basic drawing, health medical terminology, intermediate algebra and human anatomy, according to the transcript.
That resume also says Alex attended the University of California at Los Angeles. When Damico showed Alex a letter from UCLA that said the school had no record that he had ever attended there, Alex said he took a correspondence course there when he was in the Navy Reserves. The letter does say that verification for correspondence courses should come from another office at the university.
The question of Alex's military duty also arose. Damico questioned why the resume Alex submitted as part of the court files in the Knox case said that he served in the Navy as a Seabee , while military records showed he had served in the Navy Reserves.
Damico also questioned Alex about the circumstances surrounding his departure from Sinai Hospital in Baltimore in 1994. Alex testified that he left on good terms.
Damico showed Alex documents that said Alex had been issued an oral warning for falsifying timecards and that when he left, it was recommended that he not be rehired.
But Alex testified that he continued to work as a consultant for the hospital.
Alex also testified that he was paid $175 for his work for federal prosecutors, though he said he had not yet calculated the total hours he had worked or submitted an invoice. He said the prosecution sent him 19 charts to review in connection with what the prosecution has argued were unlawful billing practices.
Alex testified that based on his review of the medical files, "the practice was calling a zebra a horse."
The trial continues today.