Ouverture…frequently an opening to a larger dramatic work – no doubt the French envisioned something slightly more tasteful than USA versus Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom – but the Mississippi version is definitely a dramatic work!
Cue the orchestra and chorus: Enter Tim Balducci. Balducci thought he was going to use Henry Lackey, but Henry took Tim to school on using people. Henry saw an opportunity to unhorse Dick Scruggs, a new-comer to Northern Mississippi legal circles … a new-comer who carried a lotta baggage and had both strong enemies and friends. So, without knowing exactly which direction they might go, Henry set wheels in motion that cast Balducci as a slow-witted dupe trying as best he could to help himself by trying, as he (Tim) saw it, to help Scruggs. Henry became a government operative who continued to spin-up his dealings with Balducci so that he (Henry) would be absolved of charges of impropriety while bringing down the mighty Scruggs firm.
Bravo! Allow me to open the curtain on other events taking place “on or about” the time of the alleged overture.
March 1 Qualifying Deadline for the 2007 State-wide elections; Insurance Commissioner George Dale files as a Democrat.
March 15 Jones, Funderburg files a sealed lawsuit against Scruggs (SKG) with Judge Lackey
March 19 George Dale says he will file lawsuit to run as an Independent.
March 25 Scruggs paint Lipstick on a pig with ad critical of Dale in Clarion Ledger.
March 25 Dale files lawsuit to run as an Independent.
March 28 Supreme Court appoints Judge Lackey to hear Dale’s case.
March 28 Balducci offers to contact Judge Lackey, who he says is his friend, about the Jones lawsuit.
“Volunteered? I don’t know if I’d put it that way. I was asked to and I agreed to.” He recounted the meeting later to federal investigators.“What I said to the agents is we didn’t talk about giving money to Judge Lackey at that meeting,” Balducci said. “We certainly discussed improperly influencing the judge at that meeting.”
March 28 Balducci calls Lackey for a meeting…conversation…led him to call the U.S. attorneys.
There is no tape and therefore no transcript. I’m not sure what happened between this and the next one. It’s mentioned in the motion to dismiss and the Lackey proffer.
March 28 Scruggs tells WAPT winning lawsuit is priority; keeping Dale from winning is another.
April 14 On or about date Lackey called U.S. Attorney in Oxford and reports overture of bribe
April 27 Lackey holds hearing on Dale lawsuit.
Copeland received more than $100,000 as a lobbyist for the American Insurance Association in 2007. He was also Dale’s personal attorney in an April hearing in Calhoun County Circuit Court, where the state Democratic Party sought to bar Dale from the Democratic primary this year
May 3 On or about Balducci notified Judge Lackey of a change in plans…
May 4 Backstrom emailed a proposed order to Balducci. ..Balducci faxed a copy to Judge Lackey.
May 4 Briefs in Dale case due to Judge Lackey
May 9 Balducci discussed his close relationship with Scruggs in conversation with Judge Lackey.
May 9 Attorneys for both sides in Dale lawsuit have given a judge their written arguments.
It could be several days, however, before Circuit Judge Henry T. Lackey hands down a ruling in the case. Lackey is based in Calhoun County, but is presiding over a court term in another part of his circuit court district this week.
May 14 Judge Lackey rules Dale must run as a Democrat.
Shall we dedicate this chorus to the source of the inspiration – I’m not spinning anything. I’m just trying to take what I’ve seen, read, and heard and make it comport with the little bit I know about some of the principals in the case and the little bit I know about human behavior – and say Bravo once again?
Encore! Of course – first, the overture performed by Balducci followed by Judge Lackey’s version.
I damn sure didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize my relationship with you, Judge, because there is nothing in this world that I, that I value more than, than that, and I just can’t tell you how much I – how personally close I feel to you. Judge, I credit you and Judge Coleman for teaching me how to practice law now. I mean I grew up as a lawyer in y’all’s courts.
Y’all taught me the practice of law, and I look at y’all, at you and Judge Coleman, as way more than just friends and respected mentors. I mean I look at y’all as damn near my family on the legal, in the legal community. You know, there’s nobody I feel closer to and I just – goodness sakes, I, I, I’ve just, I’ve fretted about this cause I just didn’t want to do anything in the world to, to, to ever do that, that, to do that harm, that relationship any harm.
Judge, I would – it would break my heart if I thought I had, had put you in a, in a bad position. I got really upset, you know, when, you know, after I – I mean, I could kind of tell – when you called the other night, I knew, you know, I could tell in your voice, I knew you were troubled by it, and that’s why I said, you know, do what your heart tells you cause I sure didn’t want you to, to be in a bad position.
In his interview, Judge Lackey said Balducci first approached him in March suggesting a bribe. The judge, who sits on a court that covers several counties in Mississippi, said he didn’t contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office because he considered himself friendly with Balducci and feared the ramifications.
“I worried what would become of this young man, his wife, his children,” said Judge Lackey. “He was one of the brightest legal stars on the horizon that I’d come across, and I worried a great deal about the consequences.”
After a few days, he felt he “had to do something” and contacted federal prosecutors in Oxford, Judge Lackey said. Eventually, he agreed to participate in an operation to help them build their case. “I felt like my reputation was being denigrated, so I told them I’d be happy to wear a wire,” he said.
Finale – with a hat tip to bellesouth for her assistance with research – George Bernard Shaw
When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.