Lampton’s legacy: Integrity, hard work
Some of Lampton’s critics, both inside and outside Mississippi’s tightknit legal community, have accused Lampton of selective prosecution, specifically in the case of former Biloxi attorney Paul Minor and three judges. Lampton recused himself from the case after Minor, a multimillionaire who supported Democratic candidates, claimed in federal court he was being selectively prosecuted for judicial bribery.
In a recent interview Lampton said the Minor investigation started in his office when then-–Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Newton was tipped off by a banking contact about loans Minor guaranteed for the judges. The loans, Lampton said, “just didn’t look right.” He said the investigation went from there.
Minor and the judges cited as evidence of political prosecution the U.S. attorney’s failure to indict attorney Dickie Scruggs, who worked closely with Minor and operated in similar fashion with loan guarantees. Scruggs is the brother-in-law of former Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican.
Lampton said the government simply didn’t have the evidence to indict Scruggs.
“We certainly looked at him,” Lampton said, “but it just didn’t rise to the level we thought was sufficient and he wound up being a witness.”
Lampton also said he was surprised when, within days of testifying against Minor in 2007, Scruggs and colleagues conspired to bribe a north Mississippi judge. The judge, who reported the overture to federal authorities, eventually accepted a total of $50,000 cash in a plan to help nail Scruggs and his colleagues.
“I can’t believe that they were that brazen,” Lampton said. “I was surprised by that and I think a lot of people were surprised.”
Today both Scruggs and Minor are serving prison sentences. Minor was given 11 years, Scruggs seven. Minor’s case is on appeal, but Scruggs pleaded guilty in two cases. The so-called Scruggs II investigation is ongoing, with Scruggs’ cooperation.
“Hopefully, with Dickie Scruggs being convicted, and there’s some judicial bribery in the Northern District, maybe (the public) will realize that it’s a lot more widespread than people believe. It’s certainly not political. Any time I’ve tried a public official, they always said that it was political. It’s just a standard response. That’s what you get.
“It goes with the territory. We can’t do a very good job of responding to it. We just have to let it be said and let what we do in court be the response.”
Lampton certainly has never been known to shy away from prosecuting politicians. In fact, he’s known for it.