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The Scruggs-Hood Saga . . ....

The Scruggs-Hood Saga . . . What’s Next?

By: Magnolia Tribune - February 6, 2008

It was a long weekend of legal posturing between attorneys over the Dickie Scruggs deposition in State Farm v. Hood case. It is hard to imagine that Keker’s merry band of California lawyers would have treated an deposition of their client in an unrelated civil case like Custer’s Last Stand and infuriated a federal judge in the process. After Judge Mills ordered the parties together and threatened Dickie Scruggs and his lawyers with contempt if they did not comply, one can only assume that Dickie Scruggs was deposed and that the deposition remains under seal per Mills’ order for Judge Bramlette’s review in the Southern District case of State Farm v. Hood.

So that brings us to today. Today, in Natchez, a proceeding will be held on Jim Hood’s motion to dismiss the case. However, State Farm will be allowed to ask questions of Mississippi’s Attorney General on the stand and under oath in Court. State Farm is alleging collusion between Jim Hood and Dickie Scruggs and others involved in the civil case in that they believe that (1) Jim Hood coordinated the criminal attack to sweeten the pot for his large donors involved in the civil case against State Farm and (2) that he essentially reneged on an agreement not to prosecute after getting $5,000,000 from State Farm as “investigative fees“.

Should Judge Bramlette decide to allow the lawsuit go forward, it would be a huge blow to Jim Hood and the defense of Dickie Scruggs. Allowing the suit to go forward could only be interpreted that a federal judge believes after considering the evidence that there is a likelihood of success on the merits. For Jim Hood, who has largely been given a pass by the Mississippi media so far, having a trial go forward, with a federal judge’s blessing, will be too much for them to pass up on. I believe at that point that the media will have to start paying a lot of attention to this case.

For Dickie Scruggs, the progression of State Farm v. Hood would likely mean that it would be yet another line of PR and legal defense. The PR problem of him taking the 5th on video should that be unsealed will be particularly troubling for his defense team. That is not the kind of stuff you want running on the 6 o’clock news much less letting bloggers like me have access to. His upcoming criminal trial already has two declared lines of legal defense and one more stated potential line. Currently, Scruggs faces indictment for conspiracy to bribe Judge Lackey. He also faces a contempt of court charge from Judge Acker in Alabama. In Joey Langston’s plea, he gave the court testimony that could lead to the distinct possibility that Scruggs could face charges involving form Hinds County DA Ed Peters and Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

With the wiretaps that the Feds have basically already admitted that they have, it is nearly impossible to think that Scruggs will face a jury trial under this kind of evidence. It is widely viewed that their only hope will be to get the wiretaps tossed. If Keker & Company can, then the “fruits of the poisonous tree” would apply. A judge could then rule that any information learned as a result of improperly made wiretaps are excluded, and that would strengthen Dickie Scruggs, Zach Scruggs and Sid Backstrom’s leverage considerably.

If the wiretaps hold up, which I believe they will, Dickie Scruggs in particular will be faced with a pretty significant challenge. If he fights this case straight up, the Feds will likely go for broke and charge him with everything they have (see Paul Minor). I expect that the Scruggs criminal defense will hold the line to see if they can “fancy-lawyer” their way through at least the wiretap fight. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. My original thoughts were that Scruggs would go to trial, no matter what. But then I read the plea agreements and what the Feds have said they have on tape. Now, my guess is that plea agreements would come shortly thereafter that procedural fight. If not, it would be the biggest trial since OJ Simpson (the first one).

You never know what can happen in Scruggs Nation.

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This article was produced by Magnolia Tribune staff.