Scruggs Nation, Day 50

SECOND UPDATE: Here's a copy of last Friday's sealed motion, now unsealed, in which some of the defense strategy is laid out. 

UPDATE: Dickie Scruggs' lawyer says he was framed. Here's a story about it from Anita Lee of the Sun Herald, and here's an excerpt:

Attorney John Keker said during a procedural hearing that FBI investigators offered "very misleading" evdience so a judge would agree to continue wiretaps into its investigation of his client. Keker also asked for FBI notes on the wiretaps to further that argument. Scruggs and two other defendants are going to ask that the tapes not be used at trial.

A September 2007 tape recording indicates Lackey was trying to lead Balducci to say that Scruggs was aware of the bribe and that Scruggs put the money up for the bribe. Balducci said in the recording that Scruggs did not know about the bribe.

On Sept. 27, Balducci paid Lackey $27,000 of the $40,000 bribe. When Lackey mentioned Scruggs, Keker said Balducci responded, "... the way this will work is, I'll just go to him at some point and say, 'I've cured a problem that you had and you need to recognize the problem I've cured for you; that's how it works... . He is not involved in a direct manner, doesn't want to be, doesn't need to be."

Judge Neal Biggers Jr. denied the request, saying the defense has the tape recordings and does not need the notes.

It also was noted today that in Patterson's guity plea entered in court Tuesday, he indicated that prosecutors were wrong in alleging that any conspiracy began in March.

Patterson said he didn't realize that when a discussion ensued regarding how to settle a legal fee dispute, it was the beginning of a conspiracy to bribe Lackey in order to settle the dispute in their favor.

Also in court today, Biggers continued the trial until March 31 because of scheduling conflicts and to give prosecutors sufficient time to turn over discovery evidence to the defense.

I also note that the court docket shows that attorney Tony Farese has once again renewed his motion to withdraw as counsel for Zach Scruggs, after he hired former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.   Here's a copy of the motion.

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Lots of inquiries from the Scruggs Nation this morning.  My day and night job schedules aren't conducive at the moment to a real Scruggs Nation post, which takes a long time to prepare.  If I have time to do a post this evening, I will.

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Written By:Wes On January 16, 2008 11:37 AM

Thanks, David for your great work on this case. We are probably in a dead period right now....so go back to your real
job!

Written By:msms On January 16, 2008 3:08 PM

I've enjoyed your posts , David. I've been somewhat surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious angle that we have three yahoos that benefited ( split 3 mil) the last time Scruggs went to court with former associates. Now, same situation, same players. What would keep them from saying, "what the hey, let's get Scruggs the results he wants and he'll be generous as always." When they get caught and are facing big time sentences, what do you think they're gonna say? They'd lie about their mothers if it would get them reduced sentences.

Written By:nah On January 16, 2008 3:27 PM

Do you ever wonder if these huge excerpts from news articles pasted in blogs are consistent with fair use copyright law? I do.

Written By:David Rossmiller On January 16, 2008 3:43 PM

Nah, you can stop wondering, they are. If you want me to give you the law on it, you can call me at 503-306-5311, and I'll hook you up with myself and other lawyers from our IP department.

Written By:Tim On January 16, 2008 4:09 PM

Surprising developments. Proof positive that the Gov't does not always present the full truth. Still a dangerous case for the Scruggs' as I am sure there's bad tapes coming for them, but these exchanges between Lackey and Balducci paint a glimer of hope. When you consider that Lackey is acting under direction of the Gov't it becomes even more significant that they didn't get the response they were looking for.

Written By:MORE COWBELL On January 16, 2008 4:31 PM

So as of Sept. 27 when $27,000 was paid (I thought all prior reports said either $10,000 or $20,000), Dickie was in the dark, according to the FBI tapes? Well, let me be the first to say "what did the president of scruggs nation know, and when did he know it." Keker is looking up entrapment right now. Grisham, you taking notes? I know, one page a day, on a yellow legal pad. Holla back. (John is also a former lawdawg at Ole Miss and reads your column!)

Written By:Alys On January 16, 2008 5:18 PM

NAH: I'm a reporter and some of my stuff has been on this blog and I considered it a compliment. As long as the name of the author and the name of the paper is given, it's all good. And what journalist wouldn't want their stuff getting as much read as these Scruggs stories have been getting?
Keep up the good work, David.
You have this journalist's blessing to post anything I write.

Written By:fred On January 16, 2008 5:19 PM

You don't think Balducci would tell Scruggs at a later date that he paid the judge $1,000,000 and that Dickie now needs to pay it back to Balducci??

Netting Balducci an additional $960,000. How would Scruggs ever know, it is not like the Judge would give back a written receipt.

Keker has enough ammunition now to take it to trial. Brings back memories of John DeLorean.

Written By:Anderson On January 16, 2008 5:31 PM

If the feds are worried about Keker's defense argument, that may be one reason they're pushing on the earlier incident (whatever it was) involving Langston, Delaughter et al. -- trying to tar Scruggs with a similar offense in the past.

Written By:Wes On January 16, 2008 5:35 PM

No Fred,

This brings back memories of Andrew Fastow of Enron fame.

AF got 10 years..........a pretty good
sentence negotiated by Mr. Keker, Mr.
Fastow's Attorney.

Written By:Greg On January 16, 2008 6:12 PM

I'm not a lawyer, but reading the September 2007 tape recording seems eerily similar to the film "The Godfather". Part II, specifically. When don is testifying in front of congress.

Perhaps don Scruggs ran his firm by not knowing how his firm was run.

Written By:Wes On January 16, 2008 6:20 PM

Comments by Balducci:

" Do what you feel is right in your heart..........and by the way........here's a check for $40,000 to help you decide."

Written By:Consultant On January 16, 2008 6:40 PM

A lot of us that know all of these guys are confident that Dickie, Zach and Sid Backstrom are innocent, just as they claim. If you have been involved in a project with the Scruggs Firm, you know that there are a lot of legal groupies trying to get into the inner circle. And frankly, dickie is probably trusting to a fault. But never, ever did I see ANYTHING from the Scruggs team that was even borderline questionable. Scruggs has a lot of friends, and a few enemies. But those enemies are very powerful. If judge Lackey was an honorable person, he would have ended the conversation the moment it touched on the Jones case. If the Department of Justice was interested in justice, they would not have smeared these guys with an indictment that is misleading and a blatant attempt to pander to the press and taint the jury pool. Don't be shocked when these guys are exonerated. You have only begun to hear the truth, and these guys are all fighters.

Written By:At Home On January 16, 2008 6:41 PM

Freedom vs. Wealth

Well most of us would choose freedom since we are about broke anyway. But what about these characters. Langston for example, he does a few years and gets to keep the money, that is if Bryant's actions are unsuccessful. Would you go to jail for a million or so a year...? Joey is willing and most would. Dickie will always be wealthy. Old age is his only problem. Others can ride it out, Zack.

Ponder -- Would they give it all away.... for Freedom..? I don't think.

Next, in keeping the insurance in the blog -- There sure has been a lot of State Farm commercials on the tube here lately in Mississippi. They are also sponsoring a coupe of recently announced events. I can't tell if they really want our business or just working on jury selection.

At Home in Mississippi

Written By:mslawyer On January 16, 2008 7:45 PM

Wow. The knee-jerk reaction that Keker has prompted here is worth the millions in attorney fees. I would think that a blog read by lawyers and other educated people would be more judicious about their opinions. Those CD's were filled with hours of audio tape from more sources than Lackey's chambers - remember the "we paid for this ruling" bit??? I never thought that a well played "sealed" motion (very, very nice bit by the way) would produce so much positive spin - I guess that Scruggs' spin machine is in full effect - just ask Mr. Consultant above. But don't ask any former partners of Dickie like Mr. Jones or Mr. Wilson or Mr. Luckey or the others who have had to sue for their share of work, they might not tell you their experiences were that great. Fighting for 10 - 12 years for past payments that you invested your life's work, time, and money in while going bankrupt can leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Written By:nah On January 16, 2008 7:56 PM

alys -- I wonder if your publisher agrees. It takes more than compliments to pay your salary.

Written By:New2MS On January 16, 2008 8:00 PM

Consultant -
If you didn't see anything it's because you weren't looking closely or because your vision is clouded. Langston was a friend to Scruggs and he certainly saw plenty. Surely you are not trying to say that Lackey wasn't honorable because he called the Feds! He did the honorable thing and now years of corruption and unethical behavior is coming out into the open. I personally don't know Scruggs or any of the others and they may be great people to know as friends but I certainly wouldn't want to do business with any of them.

Written By:not anywhere near hopeful On January 16, 2008 8:02 PM

My heart sank when I saw a newspaper article heralding "2 down, 3 to go." If the feds are not taking a long, hard look at corruption being a way of life for, uh, more than 4-5 lawyers and a former state auditor, then we are indeed IN A WORLD OF HURT DOWN HERE.

Visit those links Mr. Rossmiller gives us .... he provides the real thing, the stuff we're not likely under the heading of a certain newspaper with the initials C-L.

There are some must reads out there:

pleadings, motions, deposition testimony, orders, injunctions, trial transcripts, and many other court documents in, to name a few, (1) Renfroe v. Moran (Rigsby), (2) Jones v. Scruggs in state circuit court (3) U.S. v. Scruggs (criminal contempt against Scruggs in federal court in Alabama), (4) State Farm v. Hood (federal court in Southern District of Mississippi, (5) State Farm v. SKG, KLG, or whoever they are about now.....and that's just for starters.

I BEG THE U.S. ATTORNEYS OFFICE TO SEE THIS THROUGH AND CLEAN UP THE CORRUPT NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE. From the looks of things,, if they don't do it, it ain't getting done, period.

Written By:fascinated On January 16, 2008 8:09 PM

Consultant,
If Scruggs et al are so honorable, why would they pay P.L. Blake $50,000,000 to clip articles from the newspaper?

Written By:MORE COWBELL On January 16, 2008 8:37 PM

Hood sightings this week: a win against Guvnor Haley the Barber. Clarion-ledger said that, Judge Delaughter didn't give Barbour's argument regarding a calendar year vs a political year any credence in his decision. a win against MySpace, who has agreed to parental controls and parental notification for protection of children against sexual predators. Not a bad week.

Written By:MORE COWBELL On January 16, 2008 8:39 PM

Hood sightings this week: a win against Guvnor Haley the Barber. Clarion-ledger said that, Judge Delaughter didn't give Barbour's argument regarding a calendar year vs a political year any credence in his decision. a win against MySpace, who has agreed to parental controls and parental notification for protection of children against sexual predators. Not a bad week.

Written By:Homeboy On January 16, 2008 8:42 PM

Another possible angle--

any exculpatory evidence is now being released with the blessing of the prosecution because Dickie and Zach are about to plea-- and the feds would like to minimize outrage.

Just a thought....

Written By:behind the bar On January 17, 2008 5:33 AM

I read a quote attributed to Mr. Farese after Mr. Langston plead guilty to one count. If I recall, it was something about his long-time friend's fall from grace being a tragedy of Shakesperian proportions. Then, within quotation marks was a statement to the effect of this being a "loss to the Bar."

Did anyone else see that? Surely a misquote, no?

One final thought: Seems to me that Judge Biggers is taking a hard look at whether Coghlan can represent Scruggs. If so, what about Mr. Farese representing Junior and Langston? Wonder how gingerly the said attorney will handle the paper-napkin thing?

Oh, and while we're talking about paper bapkins, anybody out there know how well paper napkins withstand the test of time, just in case there are one or two in 7001 documents feds secured from Hinds County District Court?

Written By:MSMud On January 17, 2008 6:51 AM

There is another angle here, by pleading entrapment by judge Lackey/ government, the defense is opening the door for the government to show predisposition....ummm how about Langston's plea??? The government looks pretty sharp so far.

Written By:Ole Miss Law Student On January 17, 2008 4:05 PM

The current word down here is that Scruggs has flipped and gone State's evidence. 52 people are rumored to be indicted along with one high ranking official. As some of you may know, Scruggs is the brother-in-law of former Senator Trent Lott who recently resigned after being re-elected to a six-year term in 2006.

Written By:Just Looking On January 17, 2008 8:22 PM

Wow, it is amazing how so many attorneys will conclude an indicted person is guilty. Even the DOJ press releases say the accused should be considered innocent until proven guilty in court. I hope the jury pool is not as opinionated as the commenters here. I happen to agree with "Consultant" about the judge. Ethical jurist do no engage in ex parte discussions of their pending cases. If the judge had stopped the conversation the minute it turned to the Jones case, Balducci would have never had an opportunity to persue the bribe. It takes two to tango my friends.

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