Tall tales and coverying a$$ – former US Attorney (mis)speaks about Scruggs case in presentation to Memphis Rotary

Coffee in hand, I found an email message waiting for me to wake up and get going this morning – and Former U.S. Attorney Greenlee Discusses Big Cases did ever more get me going.  Going straight to my bookcase to confirm that Greenlee was trying to cover his a$$ when he told tall tales to the Memphis Rotary Club:

Circuit Court judge, Henry L. Lackey, came to see…[him]…without an appointment to say there had been an attempt to bribe him with $40,000 by a young lawyer working for Scruggs.

Greenlee’s a$$ is certainly exposed; but, before that discussion, let’s take a look at what I found in my bookcase.

“During the first week of April 2007, John Hailman, Chief of the Criminal Division, came into First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Dawson’s office and closed the door.  Hailman had been contacted by Judge Henry Lackey and, at the Judge’s request, had a lengthy meeting with him earlier in the day”.  (Kings of Torts, page 123)

“On the morning of April 11, two weeks after his meeting with Balducci, the judge telephoned his old friend John Hailman, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford and told him, “John, something’s come up and I really need to see you”. (The Fall of the House of Zeus, page 149)

Clearly, Judge Lackey did not contact Greenlee and when he came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he came after making arrangements to meet with John Hailman.

Tall tale, part two – there was no $40,000 to mention.  Returning to my bookcase, we find:

Balducci sought rulings in favor of Scruggs, and, during the same conversation, he offered an “of counsel” position to the judge in Balducci’s firm when the judge stepped down from the bench. (Kings of Torts, pages 123 -124)

It was some five months later before money was mentioned – and, even then, it was the Government that brought the subject up and Judge Lackey who decided the amount.  In part, that aspect of the case is the reason Greenlee needs to cover his a$$.

As tantalizing as Judge Lackey’s report must have been, a competent U.S. Attorney would have known immediately there was no federal jurisdiction.  In other words, Greenlee had no authority to conduct an investigation, much less offer Judge Lackey the protection of official right to commit extortion by asking Balducci for $40,000 in exchange for a favorable ruling.

Not only did the Scruggs’ defendants file a related Motion, SLABBED reported this lack of jurisdiction almost two years before a Fifth Circuit decision made it abundantly clear by reversing all related convictions in USA v Minor.

Greenlee had the opportunity to correct this “manifest error” before he resigned and he did not.  Obviously, he’d rather tell tall tales over a Rotary Club lunch where he could boast:

“You don’t always get the federal government looking at you,” Greenlee told a group of 100 Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Memphis. “But when you do, it’s like a dragon. They take you apart.”

Of course, he didn’t mention that dragon will ‘take you apart” with or without jurisdiction – but for those who love tall tales, here’s the story:

The former U.S. Attorney for North Mississippi during the prosecution of North Mississippi attorney Dickie Scruggs for bribing a judge says there were some fears the powerful attorney or his friends might destroy the government’s case by talking some key witnesses out of cooperating.

But Jim Greenlee said his office let them know if that happened, the government would come down hard on them.

“You don’t always get the federal government looking at you,” Greenlee told a group of 100 Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Memphis. “But when you do, it’s like a dragon. They take you apart.”

Greenlee said the bribery scandal that felled Scruggs, who pleaded guilty, and other prominent members of the small but close North Mississippi legal community and Greenlee’s decision to reopen the 1955 Emmitt Till murder investigation were stories “worthy of (William) Faulkner,” the author and most famous citizen of Oxford.

He also said both cases involved citizens willing to do the right thing at a critical time when others who might have had more political power would not.

“I think it’s going to continue,” Greenlee said after his speech, speaking of corruption and white-collar crime. He cited Plato’s “Republic,” which talked about punishing those at the highest positions for corruption. “Otherwise, why would it stop? You always have to do work on that.”

Greenlee joined the Oxford, Miss., law firm of Holcomb Dunbar in July after serving 10 years as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi, which is based in Oxford. Before that, he worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oxford for another 12 years.

During his tenure as U.S. Attorney, the office reopened the 1955 Till case after a man who was Till’s cousin offered new evidence about what happened the night the Chicago teenager was abducted and later tortured, shot and thrown in a river near Money, Miss.

The two men acquitted of the murder, the pivotal event that kicked off the civil rights movement, later admitted they had killed Till, who was black, for whistling at a white woman, the wife of one of the men.

Wright came to see Greenlee without an appointment to offer new proof about who else was involved.

Three years later, a Circuit Court judge, Henry L. Lackey, came to see Greenlee without an appointment to say there had been an attempt to bribe him with $40,000 by a young lawyer working for Scruggs.

Lackey wore a wire to record the payoffs. The attorney who made the payoff then agreed to wear a wire to record Scruggs. The recorded conversations also led to a second Scruggs case involving the bribery years earlier of another judge, Bobby DeLaughter. All pleaded guilty along with Scruggs.

Greenlee applauded Lackey and Wright for their courage and put them in one of three groups of citizens on a scale of those who might be corruptible.

“The first is the one that they know the ethical rules, but because of self-interest or whatever, they’re not going to go by them. That could be in a company. The other set are people that just always want to do right, no matter what, all the time,” Greenlee said. “There’s a group in the middle that kind of says, ‘I don’t know what I should do and what I should not do.’”

The effort in ethics reform, Greenlee said should be aimed at the group in the middle.

“I think it’s our job … to energize those two groups – the one that always tries to do right and the one that’s kind of on the swing side to help you find out the others and take corrective action with them,” he said.

Given his tall tales and lack of jurisdiction, Greenlee appears to be one of those who “because of self-interest or whatever” is “not going to go by” the ethical – or legal – rules and, at some point, he simply won’t be able to eat chicken and cover his a$$ over his lack of jurisdiction.

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