BLACKFOOT — After 18 months of investigations followed by an Idaho Attorney General's probe and grand jury indictments, Louis Kraml, the chief executive officer of Bingham Memorial Hospital, entered an Alford Plea to a misdemeanor charge of stalking in the second degree Friday.

    An Alford plea is when a defendant pleads guilt to a charge without admitting to the elements of the offense that led to the charge.

    Seventh District Judge David Nye accepted the plea and gave Kraml a withheld judgement, a 30-day suspended jail sentence and fined the hospital CEO $1,000. Kraml was placed on probation for one year and must perform 100 hours of community service.

    After the sentencing, Kraml said he was glad to have the entire episode behind him.

    “I respect the law, and you have to believe justice will prevail,” Kraml said.

    Earlier in Monday’s appearance at the Bingham County Courthouse, Deputy Attorney General Jason Spillman had amended a grand jury indictment that had charged Kraml with two felony counts of illegal wiretapping to the misdemeanor charge. Later Spillman asked to dismiss the same felony indictments against two former Bingham Memorial Information Technology employees, Chris Behunin and Tyler Lassen.

    An arrest warrant was issued for former BMH information technician, Jack York, after he failed to appear in court.

    Unsealed indictments  were handed down by the Bingham County grand jury on June 19.  The indictments charged Kraml, and the three former hospital Information Technology Department employees with various violations of the Idaho wiretap statute.

    According to the indictments, the defendants intercepted and recorded phone calls made by and to former hospital physician Dr. Robert Rosin and his receptionists sometime between June 2009 and August 2010.

    The existence of wiretaps was discovered by the Holland & Hart law firm out of Boise when it conducted an investigation into any and all improprieties at BMH in 2012 as requested by the Bingham Memorial Hospital board of trustees. Holland & Hart charged more than $500,000 for the investigation.

    Attorney General Spillman told Judge Nye that the case against Kraml was weak, and although the prosecution was able to provide enough evidence for probable cause, he was unsure it could convince a jury that Kraml and two of the IT employees had committed the illegal wiretapping beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Even though Judge Nye accepted Kraml’s plea Friday, there was no guarantee that the judge wouldn’t impose a sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor.

    To reduce the chance of a stiffer sentence, Kraml’s criminal attorney, Chuck Peterson of Boise presented three character witnesses before sentencing. In addition, the right side of the courtroom was packed with BMH employees who came to show their support.

    Hospital board member Alice Cannon took the stand first and said during her seven and a half years on the board she had seen Kraml’s management skills bring the hospital to new levels of excellence.

    “I know Mr. Kraml values most of all the well-being of patients,” Cannon said. “The board is absolutely united in supporting Mr. Kraml.”

    Similar praise for Kraml came from incoming chief of the medical staff at Bingham Memorial, Dr. Tom Call, who has practiced medicine at BMH for 11 years. He said the hospital CEO had the full backing of the staff.

    Dr. Hugh Selznik, who has been at Bingham Memorial as an orthopedic surgeon since 2008, said improvements in health care provided at BMH have been “truly amazing” under Kraml’s watch. He added that it is unusual in the industry for a hospital CEO to remain at his post for 15 years.

    “He’s dedicated,” Selznik said. “He loves Bingham Memorial.”

    As soon as his court appearance was over, Kraml left the courthouse and walked over to the nearby hospital he has managed for the past decade and a half. Kraml said he was delighted that he would be able to get back to work without the distractions that have come with the lengthy

investigations.