My working hypothesis was that one strong motivation for Dickie Scruggs to make a deal was to help get Zach out of this mess. This was based not just on common sense but information I received about family pressures Scruggs was receiving. Since then, I have also gotten quite a lot of information about what might have happened that led to no deal for Zach, and not all of this information is entirely consistent, or more accurately, it is consistent to a point but it is missing unanimity on the one key thing — exactly why the deal fell apart.
I believe that something close to what the Clarion-Ledger reported last Friday and then yanked from its website was being discussed — Zach would walk but surrender his law license. (It would be helpful if the CL would explain why the information was yanked — because the source or sources turned out not to be credible, because the deal was only conceptual on one party’s part and was not actually a serious possibility, or because the deal was set up and then fell apart because of some reason we don’t know for sure).
It is also plausible, considering Zach’s apparently lesser involvement as alleged by prosecutors, to assume that in any deal, even if he did not escape prison entirely, his time would have been minimal, say one year at the most. Now, as I’ve mentioned, one sticking point could have been whether he would also walk on possible charges stemming from the Wilson case. Another could have been whether he would have to cooperate with prosecutors in the Lackey bribery case and in Wilson, the latter of which could set him at odds with his father’s interests.
Let us suppose, just to examine these assumptions, that it is true that Dickie Scruggs was interested in making a deal that would also benefit his son. Seeing as the deal fell apart, what other motives did Scruggs have to make the plea bargain he eventually did? In other words, why did he not do what many predicted he would, walk into court with Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” blasting from his earphones? We know, from a motion the government filed at that time, that the defense saw the “taint team” evidence — the data pulled from the Scruggs Law Firm computer system — the day before the plea bargains.
Merely because one thing follows another does not mean the first caused the second. However, we also know, from review of court filings, that even without this taint team evidence, the government’s case was strong — the recordings showed Scruggs reviewing and editing Lackey’s draft order, Balducci would testify against him and the government would introduce evidence of his involvement in an alleged conspiracy to bribe Judge DeLaughter in the Wilson case. If the taint team evidence tended to solidify the government’s case — e-mails and the like that showed Scruggs’ knowledge and participation — he likely would have received advice from his attorneys that he stood a high likelihood of being convicted on most or all the six counts against him and spending the rest of his life in prison.
With the deal he received, however, he will be free in five years (in theory only, because we don’t know what will happen with the Wilson case). In any event, a 100 percent chance of five years is better than an 80 percent chance of 75 years. So he had motives of his own to settle, and he is not obligated under the agreement to cooperate with prosecutors.
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