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The final whistle for Scruggs

The final whistle for Scruggs

By: Magnolia Tribune - May 27, 2008

The final whistle for Scruggs

Scruggs, 61, is due to be sentenced to an expected five years in jail next month. His crime was bribing a judge. So that’s how they do it. He could have got 75 years if he hadn’t pleaded guilty in a plea bargain. He has already sold his private jet.

Supporters in the diehard anti-smoking lobby still consider Scruggs a champion of the little guy, a fallen hero in the Shakespearean mould. “He’s a very good man who made a mistake he’ll pay for for the rest of his life,” says former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore, who aided Scruggs against Big Tobacco.

This is a rare view. To many of his colleagues as well as empty-pocketed titans of industry, Scruggs has long been seen as a ruthless, rule-bending, preening exemplar of greed and self-interest.

He wins by priming a whistle-blower to find dirt on his target – the ‘insider’ of the movie – and then making a flanking move such as suing on behalf of the state medical authorities rather than that little
guy. He builds the case with compromising evidence and political support until the companies settle out of court. In that lies his genius.

The rub is that bribing the judge had nothing to do with awards to his plaintiffs. Scruggs wanted to win a dispute over divvying-up the fees with other lawyers, who were fighting like sharks after a kill.

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