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Friday, February 22, 2008

Federal Court Hearing Reveals Another Judge Bribed (MORE, CLICK HERE)

Judge denies motion to dismiss charges
The Oxford Eagle by Alyssa Schnugg, Staff Writer - February 21, 2008

A federal judge denied a motion Wednesday to dismiss the charges against three local attorneys charged with attempting to bribe a circuit court judge for a favorable ruling in a civil lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. denied the motion filed by attorneys representing Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, his son, Zach, and attorney Sydney Backstrom. It claimed the indictments should be dismissed because the government acted outrageously in its attempt to “create the crime” the three men were charged with in November by leaving out exculpatory evidence from wire tap affidavits and pursuing the defendants “aggressively.”

Scruggs, his son and Backstrom are all charged with trying to bribe Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey in an attempt to influence the outcome of a civil lawsuit filed against Scruggs last year.

Two other men, Timothy Balducci and his associate Steve Patterson, were also charged but have since pleaded guilty and are working with the government in its case against the other three.

Defense attorneys filed several motions last week, including the motion to dismiss. Hearings on those motions continued today at the Federal Courthouse in Oxford.

In denying the motion, Biggers said, according to state law, to have a motion dismissed on the grounds of government misconduct, it must be shown that the defendants only played a passive role in the alleged crime and that they wouldn’t have committed the crime if the government hadn’t acted.

Biggers said that even though the government played an active role, it does not “wipe out that there was an active participation in this crime” by the defendants.

Attorney John Keker, representing the elder Scruggs, spoke for all three defendants during the all-day hearing Wednesday. Keker asked Biggers to allow testimony from Balducci, Lackey and FBI agent William Delaney to prove the crime “was instigated through the government.”

Balducci takes stand

Biggers allowed Balducci to take the stand, and he was questioned by Keker and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Norman for more than an hour.

While on the stand, Balducci described Lackey as a long-time friend and mentor.

“He was someone I really looked up to,” Balducci told the court.

Balducci testified that during a meeting in March between all five men, talk of corruptly influencing the judge was first mentioned by Zach Scruggs, who asked Balducci to use his personal relationship with the judge to try to influence him for a favorable ruling in the lawsuit, Jones vs. Scruggs. The lawsuit was filed as part of a dispute over $26 million in legal fees from a settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuits.

At the time, Balducci said, while the comments may have been “unethical,” he didn’t consider what he was going to do “illegal” at the time.

“I knew I risking my law degree,” he said.

Balducci said no discussion of money was made at that meeting.

Balducci contacted Lackey and asked to meet with him. After exchanging pleasantries, Balducci told Lackey that he would consider it a personal favor if Lackey would side with Scruggs and send the case to arbitration. At the end of the conversation, Balducci said he told Lackey he would consider it an honor if Lackey would join his new law firm in an “of counsel” position after he retired.

“I did not intend that as a bribe,” Balducci said. “In retrospect, I can see how he may have interpreted it that way.”

Lackey contacted the government about two weeks after the meeting, apparently unsure of Balducci’s intention but suspicious enough to alert authorities. Lackey withheld ruling on the arbitration motion for almost six months. In September, during another conversation with Balducci, Lackey said he was having financial problems and wanted $40,000 for his ruling for arbitration. Balducci told Lackey he was sure that could be arranged.

Another judge bribed?

Norman asked Balducci if there was something that led him to believe he would be able to secure the $40,000 from Scruggs.

Balducci: “I was privy to conversations on another matter when Scruggs bribed another judge to solve another matter.”

In cross examination by Keker, Balducci testified that Scruggs had tried to use former Sen. Trent Lott to influence rulings made by Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter in another dispute involving legal fees. DeLaughter has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged.

Keker: “Who was the judge?”

Balducci: “Judge DeLaughter”

Keker: “Who was he bribed by?”

Balducci: “Dickie Scruggs”

Keker: “How was he bribed?”

Balducci: “Scruggs offered the influence of his brother-in-law (Trent) Lott to put him on the list for consideration for a federal appointment.”

Keker accused the government of “hounding” Balducci throughout the summer, even after months went by with no “offers” made by Balducci.

Later in the day, Delaney took the stand during a hearing to suppress the evidence gathered from wiretaps and affidavits. Keker questioned why he left certain comments from the conversations — that Keker claims is exculpatory for his client — out of his affidavits for the wire taps. Delaney answered most of the questions by saying he simply felt the information wasn’t relative or that other information used in the affidavits was more pertinent to the case.

Biggers reserved ruling on the motion to suppress the evidence and asked each side to submit a list of the omitted and false statements so that he could see that if they were included in the affidavits originally. He asked both sides to prepare case law and arguments and submit them by Monday as well.


Anonymous said...

Seems like this is business as usual in the legal community.

Anonymous said...

Hurry Up, come and get it, we are having a SALE of Judges - BUY A JUDGE ON THE CHEAP!
After I read this now I know why I lost my case.

Anonymous said...

I never realzied things were so bad with judges and the courts.

Anonymous said...

why isn't this the top story at every network?

Anonymous said...

Because if they do, everybody will find out how we have criminals destroying people's lives instead of honest officers of the court doing their job.

Anonymous said...

selective enforcement equals no enforcement! That's what happen to me.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
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