Dr. Bruce Diamond's stunning guilty plea Tuesday to 53 criminal charges involving an eight-year scheme that diverted more than $10 million in Medical College of Georgia research funds to dummy corporations formed by Diamond and his partner, Dr. Richard Borison, is devastating news for Borison's defense.
Borison's attorney, Michael Garrett, said in October that his client's contracts with drug companies may have violated MCG policy, but they didn't break the law. The contracts, said Garrett, were between Borison, Diamond and the drug firms, thus the money rightly belongs to them.
Diamond's plea arrangement seemingly shoots holes in that defense. He admits to, among other things, theft, bribery, illegally obtaining and prescribing controlled substances, and practicing medicine without a license.
Richmond County Superior Court Judge Albert Pickett, accepting the state's recommendations, sentenced Diamond to five years in prison and ordered him to pay back $1.5 million to MCG.
In exchange, Diamond agreed to testify against his old partner. Court watchers are curious to see if Borison will hold out or cop out.
Surely MCG officials -- and for that matter, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents -- would much prefer that Borison cop out. If he goesto trial it could air a lot of dirty MCG linen.
At a minimum, a trial would rehash all the nasty publicity growing out of the college's lax oversight of research grants and contracts. The oversight program, said an independent audit after last February's arrests of the two researchers, suffered from "serious operational inefficiencies."
Red-faced MCG President Dr. Francis Tedesco moved quickly to establish an Office of Clinical Trials and Compliance to strengthen research coordinators and to track the college's grants and contracts. Then he lobbied hard to get skeptical Regents to give their stamp of approval to the new oversight procedures, which they finally did.
Now everyone in Georgia's higher education establishment just hope the reforms work and that memories of the "$10 million ripoff" -- which garnered headlines all across the nation -- will fade away. If Borison doesn't buckle under the pressure of Diamond's anticipated testimony, that may not happen for quite awhile yet.