Anita Lee reports comments from FBI

Ms Lee does a good job updating today’s developments to the overall investigation. This story headlines the Sun Herald RSS feed on the lower right side of the page.

 ………the FBI’s special agent in charge said his office has committed the manpower to “work the case to its logical conclusion.”

“Public corruption is our No. 1 criminal priority,” said Frederick T. Brink, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jackson Division. “Americans expect a fair and impartial judicial system. Any attempts to undermine that through bribery or other types of illegal activity really critically damages our faith in our judicial system. It is a particularly heinous crime.”

Brink said he is awaiting copies of the plea agreements that Scruggs and another lawyer in his firm, Sidney Backstrom, reached with the government. The FBI has worked on the case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District, which notified U.S. District Court Judge Neal B. Biggers of the plea agreements in Oxford………..

According to the Associated Press, Scruggs and Backstrom have pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to defraud the United States. The next legal move remains unclear for a third defendant, Scruggs’ son and law firm member Zach Scruggs. He has until March 17 to reach a plea agreement, but has so far maintained his innocence.

The charges involve a $40,000 bribe to state court Judge Henry L. Lackey, who tipped off investigators and cooperated from the investigation’s inception about one year ago.

For the money, Scruggs expected a court order worded to his liking in a lawsuit another attorney filed against his firm over division of legal fees.

Scruggs, Backstrom and a third member of the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford, Scruggs’ son Zach, were indicted in November on six charges each. Two others charged in the case pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending five years in prison each for the two cooperating defendants, attorney Timothy Balducci and a consultant in his firm, former State Auditor Steve Patterson.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also plans to recommend five years in prison for Scruggs and 2½ for Backstrom, according to AP.

Lackey has cooperated with the investigation since Balducci, a friend, approached him a year ago about help in the case.

“The FBI has been very successful in combating public corruption,” Brink said. “I think in part because of the public’s willingness, in this case Judge Lackey’s willingness, to come forward.”

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