More on FBI search of Scruggs' law offices

The big news from yesterday, of course, was the FBI's search of Dickie Scruggs' law offices, and it remains today's big news.  This AP story said at least seven FBI agents and federal prosecutors searched the offices.  This AP story in the Clarion Ledger said they began searching about 10:30 a.m. and were still there at 3 p.m. -- they could have stayed longer, for all I know, but that is apparently about the time the story had to move across the wire.

[UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers!]

What were they looking for? I don't know, and no one else appears to know either, at least anyone outside the FBI and prosecutors, and they aren't saying.  Seldom have I had so many e-mails in an afternoon from readers, and usually some one is able to tell me some inside dope, but not in this instance. So if you know the good stuff, don't be shy about letting me know.

One thing I noted in the media accounts I read was that Scruggs' big time San Francisco criminal defense lawyer, John Keker, was not speaking for Scruggs on this matter.  Keker, as you recall, is defending Scruggs against a charge of criminal contempt of court instigated by federal Judge William Acker relating to the Renfroe v. Rigsby document case in Alabama.  This is smart -- whether the search is related to that prosecution or not, why create the link in people's minds?  Instead of Keker, Mississippi trial attorney Joey Langston spoke for Scruggs.  The story in the Clarion Ledger said that Langston is "representing the Scruggs firm but is not an employee there."  Ironically, the big Sun Herald story from yesterday, which contained extensive quotes from Langston, didn't say anything about who he is.

Langston, according to his firm's website, specializes in criminal defense, wrongful death and personal injury cases.  According to this press release by Mississippians for Economic Progress, a group that opposed AG Jim Hood's re-election, Langston, like Scruggs, is a big campaign contributor to Hood. The press release says the following:

As past DAGA [Democratic Attorneys General Association] contributions have shown, these DAGA contributions could be an attempt to obscure the sources of the contributions.  For example, in 2003, trial lawyer Joey Langston gave $100,000 to DAGA; the next day, DAGA gave the $100,000 to the Hood campaign.  Langston, Hood's largest campaign contributor at the time, was then hired by Hood to represent the state in the WorldCom case [also known as the MCI case] -- and split $14 million in fees.

Since Langston had a lot to say to the Sun Herald, I thought it might be interesting to reproduce those quotes below and look at them more closely.  So here are all the direct and indirect quotes from Langston in the story, with ellipses marking where other material intervened. My comments are in brackets and italics.

"It is a search warrant for a thing, a document," Langston said. "I don't think anyone has made an allegation that the Scruggs Law Firm has done anything improper or illegal. I think that the federal authorities will probably learn when they complete their investigation that whatever the allegation of wrongdoing is that the Scruggses were not involved in any wrongdoing." [He says he does not think anyone made an allegation of wrongdoing against the Scruggs firm, but then goes on to say that the feds will eventually learn the Scruggses were not involved in wrongdoing.  Is it just me, or does this quote seem to be in a boxing match with itself? If no one has made any allegation of wrongdoing against the Scruggses, why would the government have cause to find out it was wrong?]

Langston would not provide any further information about the document the FBI was seeking, other that it involves one case . . . .

Langston said the search warrant was served on the law firm, not on Scruggs or his son, Zach Scruggs, also an attorney with the firm. He said the warrant was unnecessary because the Scruggses would have cooperated with any request for records from the federal government. [If this is so, and I have no evidence to the contrary, I wonder why the FBI chose to serve the search warrant, which they surely knew would create an unholy spectacle?]

A search warrant must be based on evidence, but Langston said the sworn statement used to gain the warrant in this case is under seal, so nobody from the Scruggs Firm knows who made allegations or what they were specifically. [Wouldn't it be ironic if the FBI's source was an "insider" of the kind Scruggs has made such prolific use of?]

"This is a surprise to everybody connected to the Scruggs Firm," Langston said, "but I've got to tell you people who are very high profile and very successful have to contend with unpleasantries and this is unpleasant, but we'll contend with it." [I like the touch of noblesse oblige here -- as if the FBI descending on one's place of business is the same as, say, getting heckled by drunken lumpenproletariat while showing up in top hat and tails to receive an award for charitable giving.]

He also said: "We just are hesitant to try to be more specific about it with the public or the media until we know more ourselves. We think we'll learn that the information on which the federal authorities have acted will turn out not to be legitimate."

Langston did say the document sought is unrelated to an ongoing legal battle in Alabama over State Farm records Scruggs obtained from two whistle-blowers who adjusted Katrina claims for the company. State Farm has claimed the whistle-blowers pilfered records pertaining to Scruggs clients, then left to work for his firm. 

The search also is unrelated to a lawsuit State Farm has filed in federal court in Jackson to stop a criminal investigation by Attorney General Jim Hood . . . . [Since he's willing to say what it's not, I sure wish he was willing to say what it is.]

The AP story in the Clarion Ledger had some additional quotes from Langston:

Langston told The Associated Press that the agents were looking for a single document that "might be ancillary to something pertaining to Katrina litigation," but is not directly involved in any of those cases. [Check that out -- "might be ancillary to something pertaining to" -- Jeez, if it's only ancillary and maybe pertaining to and a second-cousin twice-removed of a great aunt on your mother's side, what in the world is going on such that folks at the Scruggs firm have to crawl over hordes of G-men to get a cup of lousy break room coffee?]

Langston declined to elaborate but said he is confident that authorities will not find the document in question at the office.

"We're as confident as we can be that this is nothing more than the federal authorities acting on information that will prove to be inaccurate and untrue," Langston said.  [The question just keeps going through my mind like seven FBI agents and federal prosecutors walking through a law firm's front door: why didn't the FBI just ask, or why didn't prosecutors send a subpoena?  Whatever is in that sealed warrant, one would suspect, is pretty provocative.]

That's it for this post.  Stay tuned for developments.


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Ping sent from PointOfLaw Forum on November 27, 2007 11:21 PM
The Mess in Mississippi keeps getting messier, and just when you think Hurricane Katrina litigation can't get any stranger, something comes along to prove you wrong. Yesterday FBI agents and federal prosecutors served a search warrant on the Oxford law...
Written By:POKI On November 28, 2007 7:24 AM

I'll have you know that our break room coffee is not lousy!

Written By:Thick On November 28, 2007 9:29 AM

I am sure the coffee is delicious. How does it go with crow?

Written By:David Rossmiller On November 28, 2007 10:18 AM

Well, let's all hold our horses here until we know more about what this FBI search was about. The FBI, while they normally do good work, is not above making some big mistakes. We just don't know at this point what they are doing and how or even if Scruggs is implicated.

Also, I'm sure the coffee is great, people tell me Dickie Scruggs is a gracious man and I would should have known he would procure only fine java for his offices.

Written By:nate On November 28, 2007 11:17 AM

He is gracious unless you go partner with him in asbestos tort and he takes your money to fuel his tobacco litigation.

Written By:MS Smitty On November 28, 2007 12:22 PM

AP now reporting:

FBI agents who searched the law offices of prominent attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs on Tuesday left with copies of the office's computer hard drives, a lawyer for the firm said Wednesday.

Hard drives are treasure troves. My guess is that Langston is involved to protect Hood's back.

Written By:Silas On November 28, 2007 1:53 PM

That last post is VERY interesting. A slant I hadn't considered.... could "Da Hood" have sent "one of his boys" to keep track of what "der dealmaker" might be saying to keep his hiney out of trouble?

Written By:Mississippi On November 28, 2007 5:06 PM

Bless you Nate.

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