Judge Lackey took the stand at the hearing on Jones v Scruggs in Oxford today – the Oxford Eagle tells the story in part:
Tollison questioned Scruggs for about 15 minutes, but he never answered a single question with anything other than taking the 5th.
After Scruggs, Lackey took the stand and spoke about the bribe conspiracy for the first time in public.
Lackey said Timothy Balducci approached him in March 2007 about the Jones V. Scruggs case and offered Lackey a place in his firm. Concerned about his behavior, Lackey said he contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office who began surveillance on Balducci’s and Lackey’s phone conversations. It took until the fall of 2007 for money to be brought up.
Tollison asked Lackey why it took so long for the issue of money to be discussed. “I was having some serious difficulty,” Lackey said. “I just couldn’t bring myself to say, ‘Bring me some money and I’ll do this.’ But ultimately, I did.”
“Who suggested that?” Tollison asked.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office had been listening to the conversation. They were convinced, much more than I, that this was what their intent was. I hoped upon hope that wasn’t going to happen. I had just hoped Tim would have said, ‘Judge you misunderstood me. I’m sorry — just forget what I said.’”
If not that, what was it Balducci saying when he made this remark?
It would break my heart if I thought I had, had put you in a bad position…that’s why I said, you know, do what your heart tells you?
Notes from a blogger attending the hearing provided the Summary of Cal Mayo, the attorney representing Dickie Scruggs in Jones v Scruggs.
Mayo: Richard Scruggs, his son, and Backstrom have already accepted responsibility for their conduct. They have plead guilty to their charges. … They will pay for their decisions they made for a very long time.
Without dispute a serious ethical lapse occurred in March of last year but certainly no intent to bribe a judge. No intent to engage in criminal conduct. It was wrong but not criminal. It was the federal government’s intent to pull the matter further along. There was no quid pro quo no offer to pay money. Not until the demand for money that criminal conduct occurred. Even with that there was no evidence Scruggs knew anything about it.
Judge: How do you account for the statements in the guilty pleas that a meeting took place in March where Mr. Scruggs was involved.
Mayo: question was whether there was an effort in March to corruptly influence Judge Lackey. Pleas: That there was a conspiracy later on. Mr. Scruggs said he joined the conspiracy later on. Nothing shows intent to commit a crime back in March. Judge Lackey’s testimony puts it in clear context. An ethical lapse clearly. Only in September that Judge Lackey made a request for the money.
Judge: You are arguing entrapment are you not.
Mayo: Not arguing that, not the criminal case, trying to put this back in context.
We’ll be writing more about Jones v Scruggs – Judge Coleman will rule tomorrow.