On Dec. 10, the FBI served a search warrant at Langston’s law office, where Balducci previously worked, seeking documents related to that attorneys’ fees lawsuit as well as documents regarding payments to Jackson lawyer Ed Peters, who played no known role in the case. In 2001, Peters retired as Hinds County district attorney.
In his statement to authorities, Langston said he helped Scruggs try to influence Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter, who heard the case.
DeLaughter, a former assistant district attorney under Peters, has repeatedly said he took no bribe. “The hardest part of this is not being able to defend myself, but I just can’t comment on it,” he said Saturday.
About a year after the lawsuit was filed, the Internal Revenue Service disallowed some of Wilson’s deductions on his income tax filing, causing him to owe taxes, said his attorney, Vicki Slater of Jackson.
Despite being in bankruptcy, Wilson paid 100 percent of those taxes, she said.
The state Tax Commission talked of pursuing a case against Wilson, but the Bankruptcy Court blocked any action, she said.
In 2001, Scruggs’ attorneys took some of Wilson’s accounting documents received through discovery to Peters, then Hinds County district attorney, asking Peters to pursue a tax case against Wilson.
Later, one of Wilson’s lawyers met with Peters, and Slater said Peters told that lawyer that a “high-ranking public official” asked him to prosecute Wilson.
Peters could not be reached for comment.
Wilson did nothing to warrant criminal prosecution, Slater said. “All of this was to help Scruggs in his lawsuit.”
In 2005, a federal judge ordered Scruggs to pay Luckey more than $17 million.
Wilson’s case wound up back in Circuit Court before DeLaughter.
Scruggs’ attorneys expressed concerns DeLaughter’s former law partner, Bill Kirksey, was involved in that lawsuit and decided to hire Peters, according to statements Scruggs’ lawyers have given federal authorities.
Peters asked for $50,000 in cash for his services, according to the statements, and because Langston didn’t have $50,000 in cash, Balducci supplied it.
But Scruggs’ lawyers never listed Peters as an attorney of record in the case. According to statements, Peters was eventually given a total of $1 million to influence DeLaughter in the case. The statements show DeLaughter did not receive any of that money.
In January 2006, special master Bobby Sneed made recommendations that led Wilson’s attorneys to seek more than $15 million in fees from the asbestos litigation. Three days after that decision, Scruggs installed Langston as lead counsel, assisted by Balducci.
A month later DeLaughter, the judge hearing the case, ended up rejecting most of the special master’s conclusions, concluding Wilson was owed nothing beyond belated payments by Scruggs totaling nearly $1.5 million.
In a May 29, 2006, e-mail obtained by federal authorities, Zach Scruggs told his father’s attorney in the case, John Jones of Jackson, that “you could file briefs on a napkin right now and get it granted.” Jones responded in his e-mail, “You have misconceptions about Joey and Tim that I hope ultimately do not need to be explored. … If we win, it will be because the law says we win.”
At one point, Peters told Scruggs’ attorneys what DeLaughter would really like is a federal judgeship, according to statements.
DeLaughter was among a number of nominees Lott received recommendations for in letters and calls from lawyers and others.
Lott did call DeLaughter as a courtesy but recommended Sul Ozerden. President Bush nominated Ozerden in September 2006, and the Senate confirmed him in April.