NWA whistleblower gets some relief in battle against apparent ill-advised court ruling
The appellant court of the Western District of Arkansas in the US District Court in Fayetteville returned an opinion and order this week in the case of a disgraced northwest Arkansas businessman who faces a May jury trial for Medicaid and Identity Fraud committed in 2017.
Anthony Christopher owned a pediatric therapy clinic in Bentonville that employed Ladonna Humphrey, who blew the whistle on the practices that led to the eventual arrest of Christopher. Christopher filed a slander and libel lawsuit while the matter was under investigation by the state.
Christopher reportedly sold the children's clinic to a former employee, who renamed the business. Christopher eventually bought a controversial "alternative" nightclub in Eureka Springs that came under criticism for trying to promote drag shows for children in 2021.
Humphrey filed an appeal after a judge forced her into bankruptcy with an ill-advised $3.57, million judgement for slander and libel. The judge, Xollie Duncan, refused to allow any defense against the libel suit after Humphrey was unable to produce her cell phone which she said was stolen from her car the day before the original trial.
Duncan subsequently found in favor of Christopher, partially because his attorney neglected to notify the court of the on-going investigation into the alleged crimes or which he was eventually arrested.
In addition, Humphrey was found guilty of contempt of court and forced to serve ten days in jail because she couldn't produce the cell phone which her attorney claims contained information that would have helped her defense.
In a very unusual turn of events, Christopher was allowed to buy the bankruptcy appeal out from under Humphrey. The decision by judge P.K. Holmes on Wednesday (produced it its entirely below) addresses those issues.
Humphry now has "standing to challenge the court's bankruptcy order".
In addition, the order addresses possible violation of Arkansas Rule of Professional Conduct 3.3, which would address the failure of Christopher's Attorney (Glenn Ritter) to notify the court of the state's investigation into Christopher for the very charges of Medicaid Fraud that Humphrey had reported.
The decision and order on the appeal addresses "clerical errors or mistake arising from oversight or omission" and "relief from a proceeding based on mistake, inadvertence, surprise and excusable neglect".
Finally, the appeal addresses a "the profound effect on the case" that would stem from a potential conviction in Christopher's May 25, 2021 jury trial in Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Christopher faces one count of Class A Felony Medicaid Fraud and three counts of Class D Financial or Non-Financial Identity Fraud.