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Additional Scruggs news roundup

Additional Scruggs news roundup

By: Magnolia Tribune - June 28, 2008

Sad, but justified – NEMS Daily Journal

Among weeping friends and family members of Scruggs, some people merely showed up to watch and listen.

Jere Hoar, retired journalist and University of Mississippi professor, attended the session because he likes to “keep an awareness of what’s going on” in the law arena.

Hoar said Friday’s events were sad to watch because Scruggs has done good things, especially for the University of Mississippi. But he also said Scruggs’ sentence was fully justified.

“There’s no doubt that Scruggs has done a lot of good, but we all depend on the justice system and to attempt to corrupt it is a very serious crime,” he said.

Hoar said Scruggs didn’t only damage his own reputation, but also harmed the reputation of the Mississippi Bar. Scruggs’ actions made people conscious of the fact that a lawyer could attempt to go against the judiciary system, he said.

“It’s always sad when someone in such a high position falls so far,” Hoar said.

Scruggs gets 5 years in prison – NEMS Daily Journal

Richard “Dickie” Scruggs can do a lot to help himself in prison if he’ll tell prosecutors about other bad deeds he is alleged to know about, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. told him Friday.
Biggers made the comments as he sentenced the famed trial lawyer to five years in prison for trying to bribe a judge.

“Mr. Balducci said you know where a lot of bodies are buried – you might help yourself to talk about them,” Biggers suggested after Scruggs’ sentencing.

The judge was referring to a co-defendant, former New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci, who was caught on tape by the FBI and turned informant a few months before he, Scruggs and three others were indicted Nov. 29 on six counts to conspiring to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City.

The judge strongly hinted Scruggs’ legal difficulties are not yet over, especially allegations he helped bribe Judge Bobby DeLaughter in Hinds County.

“There is evidence before this court about that,” Biggers remarked as he moved toward sentencing.
“The defendants probably have to answer to that later.”

In the audience were Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat, a longtime Scruggs friend; journalist Curtis Wilkie, who is writing a book about Scruggs; and law school Dean Samuel Davis.

Scruggs’ wife, Diane, and their son, Zach, also were there. Zach Scruggs, an attorney who was indicted with his father Nov. 29 in the bribery scheme, pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge – misprisionment of felony – and will be sentenced Wednesday. The charge means he knew about the crime but failed to report it.

When Biggers advised Scruggs to talk about other misdeeds, while he served his sentence, the judge didn’t mention the case by name, but it was clear he was talking about Wilson v. Scruggs, another legal-fees lawsuit, in Hinds County.

That case is the one in which disbarred Booneville attorney Joey Langston admitted to federal prosecutors that he helped bribe Judge DeLaughter, with the help of Scruggs, former New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci, former state auditor Steven Patterson and former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters.

It’s widely believed a federal investigation is under way about the Wilson case and allegations DeLaughter was influenced to make favorable rulings about legal fees each side was arguing over from lawsuit settlements by the asbestos industry.

Sentence snuffs out Backstrom’s legal career – NEMS Daily Journal

Sidney Backstrom spent his 39th birthday two weeks ago knowing he likely would observe the next two in federal prison.

Friday, he found that to be true.

Backstrom, a rising young attorney who is now certain to be disbarred, is the second person sentenced in the saga that brought down famed trial lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs of Oxford.

About four hours after sentencing Scruggs in the same courtroom, Senior Judge Neal Biggers Jr. ordered the following penalties for Backstrom:
– 28 months in a federal prison, to begin in August.

– $250,000 in fines.

– Paying for his own incarceration and probation costs.

– Three years’ supervised probation, when he gets out of prison.

The judge noted he had not seen enough remorse from Backstrom’s co-defendants, not naming them specifically.

Biggers scoffed when Tannehill suggested Backstrom might not have gotten involved with the bribery scheme if he hadn’t had so many responsibilities to his family and others.

He also chided Backstrom for not cooperating more fully with the government about what he knew, although Trapp said, “I think we’ve done everything we’ve been asked to do.”

Class-Action Lawyer Gets 5 Years in Bribery Case – NY Times

Mr. Scruggs agreed to take care of it, prosecutors said. Mr. Scruggs prepared documentation to hide the nature of the additional $10,000 payment, they said.

The case drew nationwide attention. Mr. Scruggs is well-connected to both political parties; he has made many donations, largely to Democrats, and has personal ties to Republicans. His brother-in-law is Trent Lott, the former Republican senator, and he counts among his friends Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi, a Democrat.

Friends and colleagues called Mr. Scruggs a charming man who dressed impeccably. He is a skilled lawyer and debater, said Victor E. Schwartz, a partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, who has squared off against Mr. Scruggs in debates over the last 20 years.

“The sad thing here is that he didn’t need to cheat the system,” said Mr. Schwartz, who is general counsel to the American Tort Reform Association. “He was a phenomenal lawyer.”

Mr. Scruggs and his co-conspirators are the latest in a string of prominent plaintiff’s lawyers who have been found guilty of misdeeds involving their clients or their lawsuits.

Dickie Scruggs gets 5 years in prison in bribery scheme – LA Times

There were women in pearls, men in seersucker — enough well-heeled Mississippians to conjure up a charity auction or summer fete.

They were crowded Friday into a small wood-paneled federal courtroom behind a long line of sober, dark-suited attorneys to watch Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs, a legendary plaintiffs’ attorney, receive a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in March to conspiring to bribe a judge.

Yet Scruggs’ numerous charitable contributions and his assault on big industry earned him many faithful supporters.

After his sentencing, scores of onlookers dabbed away tears as they waited to console Scruggs and his wife, Diane.

Hundreds of Mississippians, from a former governor to the daughter of a Pascagoula shipbuilder, wrote letters seeking leniency.

“You have before you a rare man who has made comforting the afflicted a calling,” wrote Bergman, a former CBS producer for “60 Minutes.”

“It is my belief that any time he spends being incarcerated is an absolute waste of a great deal of talent and ability,” wrote University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert C. Khayat, who was in the courtroom for Scruggs’ sentencing.

But Biggers sentenced Scruggs to the maximum 60 months, ordering him to report to prison by Aug. 4 and to pay a $250,000 fine within 30 days.

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Magnolia Tribune

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