Zach Scruggs files for and gets an appeal.

There has been a fair amount of water go under the USA v Zach Scruggs bridge since I last mentioned it here. While USA v Scruggs no longer captivates the nation the case still attracts local attention including the Sun Herald running Patsy Brumfield’s story on Zach’s appeal this morning. The long story short is Judge Biggers ultimately shot Zach down on the reversal of the guilty plea. Zach now wants to take the issue to the 5th Circuit where I suspect he’ll have less luck than he had with Biggers but Team Scruggs could be setting this whole deal to head to the Supremes though you’d have to rate that as a long shot at this stage of the game.

NMC has been on the latest developments and this post well explained certain aspects of the appeals process. On Friday Judge Biggers granted Zach appeal limited to three issues. Click here for a copy of that order. Click the pic on the left to get a copy of the 30 plus page appeal brief.


BREAKING NEWS: Y’all Come, door’s open! – Biggers’ Order responds to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions

As folks here say, Judge Biggers “just outdid himself “with this Order!

In resolving the issues raised by the petitioner, the court is going to consider evidence in open court from live witnesses in accordance with the Rules of Evidence.The petitioner has presented to the court the names of witnesses he wants to depose, and the government has responded as to why some of the potential witnesses are not relevant to issues in the upcoming hearing. The court will not pre-judge what testimony potential witnesses may give and therefore will not disallow the petitioner to call some witnesses and allow him to call other witnesses; but the court will take up any objections made to questions of witnesses as they may come up from either party in open court based on the Federal Rules of Evidence.

Oxford is definitely the place to be on the 24th of April. Expect standing-room-only if you’re planning to attend the Hearing on Zach Scruggs’ Motion to Vacate! Dick Scruggs, Sid Backstrom, Steve Patterson, Tim Balducci, Judge Lackey, Tom Dawson, Bob Norman, Anthony Farese, and Dick Scruggs, Sid Backstrom, Steve Patterson, Tim Balducci, Judge Lackey, Tom Dawson, Bob Norman, Anthony Farese, and FBI Agent William Dulaney will all be there with Zach.

Slight of hand – Government playing trick on Judge Biggers with Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions

Hopefully, Judge Biggers will catch the slight of hand trick when he reads the Government’s Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions – admittedly, I missed it on my first read and only read it again after catching Patsy Brumfield’s story on this morning: Feds insist Scruggs request ‘reckless’ to question key figures under oath.

Prosecutors say Zach Scruggs’ request to take sworn statements from 11 key judicial-bribery case witnesses is “reckless, speculative and legally ineffective.”

Their motion filed late Friday argues that the only people the court should subpoena for live testimony should be Scruggs’ four original co-defendants in the 2007 judicial bribery case that rocked Mississippi’s legal community…

Here’s the trick – the Government wants to substitute affidavits given to counter Zach’s Bar Complaint against his former attorney, Anthony Farese, for the depositions Zach requested in his Motion for Depositions.  While the names may be the same – Langston, Dawson, Sanders, and Norman – Zach’s Motion goes much further than his complaint against Farese.  Not only that, the Government tosses in the affidavits of Oxford attorney Kenneth Coghlan and former Langston law partner Ron Michaels – both supporting Farese in the matter before the Bar, to make the slight of hand trick more believable to Judge Biggers.

However, there are far more significant issues before the Court than those addressed in Zach’s Bar Complaint against Farese – and the Government’s response ignores those issues all but in total.  For example, the Government’s position is Judge Lackey should be given a free pass (another one!): Continue reading “Slight of hand – Government playing trick on Judge Biggers with Response to Zach Scruggs’ Motion for Depositions”

Absolutely amazing – What you can learn reading Wilkie’s “Fall of the House of Zeus”

In an interview with Tupelo journalist Patsy Brumfield appearing on Sunday’s, “Zeus” author Curtis Wilke said,

“There were any number of subplots in the book that could be developed into bigger stories. I chose to concentrate on the Johnny Jones suit and the approach to Judge Lackey in order to keep a strong focus on one case. So Scruggs II, as the prosecutors called it, the case that sent Bobby DeLaughter to prison, does not get a full treatment in “Zeus.”

Wilke’s snapshot of Scruggs II, however, is more than sufficient for readers to see the big picture of the case and the influence it had on the outcome of Scruggs I.  A pretty picture it is not but it confirmed what had previously been rumored:  the legal team  representing Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom held a “mini-mock trial…to evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case” – an exercise described on pages 293-294 as producing “unhappy results”:

“the defense…[of the charges related to the bribery of Judge Lackey]…had been overwhelmed  by the introduction of the second case….[the alleged bribery of Judge DeLaughter]…and the suggestion that Scruggs had a history of bribing judges.” (pg. 294)

Allegations of the bribery of Judge DeLaughter first surfaced in the Grand Jury testimony of Tim Balducci:

“Balducci’s information not only imperiled Langston and Peters, it exposed Scruggs to a second charge of bribing a judge.  This opened the door for the government to use the 404(b) provision to show that Scruggs had a predilection for criminal behavior.” (page 264)

However, during a hearing on the Scruggs motion to dismisss Scruggs I charges against Scruggs, Scruggs and Backstrom, attorney John Keker had a brief opportunity to cross-examine Balducci and “pounced on inconsistencies”: Continue reading “Absolutely amazing – What you can learn reading Wilkie’s “Fall of the House of Zeus””

Homecoming – but not of the football kind

Of the five named defendants in USA v Scruggs, only Dick Scruggs remains confined. reports:

Balducci released from prison on home detention

Although the Eye of the Legal Storm, not the “go-between”, “Former attorney Timothy Balducci, 42, was transferred late Friday from the federal prison at Estill, S.C., where he had been serving a 2-year sentence, to his home at New Albany, said D. Brown, a senior officer specialist at the prison”.

Balducci was trying to influence a judge in a legal dispute between lawyers who were fighting over $26 million in legal fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina cases…After Balducci’s 2007 arrest the day he completed the payoff to Lackey, he began cooperating with authorities.Balducci wore a recording device to the office of attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the chief architect of the landmark tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s.His cooperation led to arrests and guilty pleas from Scruggs, his son Zach, one of their law partners and Balducci’s partner and former State Auditor Steve Patterson.

Tollison was green (with envy), Judge Lackey went whacky – Curtis Wilke’s “Zeus” a Scruggs tell-all

“[Wilke’s]… story is particularly tough on Oxford plaintiffs lawyer Grady Tollison, portrayed as jealous of Scruggs, who horns in on Tollison’s perceived primacy on the Square.And on Lackey, who delights in the federal yoke when he’s doing the FBI’s bidding to snare Scruggs, but turns eccentric and bitter as the story winds down, despite the accolades that come his way for his role.”
Not that “green Grady” and “whacky Lackey” weren’t obvious to those following USA v Scruggs; but, good for Curtis Wilke who lets it out in his Scruggs tell-all,  Fall of the House of Zeus – and good for Daily Journal reporter Pasty Brumfield who gets the word out in her review,  lending credibility to the opinion of Washington (state) attorney Steve Eugster:
“It seems we may have a situation where a trial judge engaged in earwigging with the attorney(s) for the plaintiff in the Jones v. Scruggs case. Evidence of the earwigging is found in the fact of the very unusual ore tenus motion whereby the judge entered an order sealing the file of the case from all the world open to be unsealed in the sole discretion of the attorney who filed the case.” Continue reading “Tollison was green (with envy), Judge Lackey went whacky – Curtis Wilke’s “Zeus” a Scruggs tell-all”

Flipping the wig on “whiggocracies”

“To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi”

When I need words to explain something “Mississippi”, I reach for the last work of the late (and great) Willie Morris, “My Mississippi” – and what words I find! Some, such as those of Faulkner, come as quotes from other Mississippi writers.  The most telling, however, are those words that show the depth of this understanding of this place he called “home”:

“It has been remarked that Mississippi has produced so many fine writers because the state is such a complicated place that much interpretation is required.”

Victoria Pynchon’s recent piece on Mississippi earwigging and Zach Scruggs was the impetus for my calling on Willie.  SLABBED considers Pynchon a friend.  In fact, we hold her  in such regard that the link to her “Settle it Now” Negotion Blog has been a constant on our blogroll and will remain so despite the “h” she inserted in “earwigging” or her need for “interpretation” of  the practice in this “complicated place”.

Here in this “complicated place”, perhaps because so many once lacked the skills to read and write, “earwigging” is not a reflection of a “whiggocracie” but is, instead, an art — a form of the storytelling that, like the run-on sentences often found in “our literature…and music” that boggies all night long — that doesn’t know when to stop.  Yet, it too, was grown “directly out of land and the sense of place – the mark of the land… the love of narrative:

One sees this at some times directly and at other times through a vivid concreteness and emphasis on detail, as in the stories we love to tell…We are talkers.  We talk about ourselves, each other, our ancestors, events, the funny and quirky and bizarre things people do — true stories, more or less, and the richer and more plentiful the detail, the better…Like storytelling, art of whatever form plays a communal role: it draws people together, helps them understand themselves and their common humanity…”

Pynchon’s article focuses on Zach Scruggs’ Motion to Vacate his conviction for Misprision of a Felony, his failure to report the earwigging of Judge Lackey in the case of Jones v Scruggs.  However, in a March 2008 post, Earwigging — A Mississippi Tradition, Steve Eugster wrote of the earwigging by the Plaintiff’s attorney [Grady Tollison] in the Jones case: Continue reading “Flipping the wig on “whiggocracies””

Eastland stands behind Motion to Dismiss – Greer files cross-claim for Patterson in Wilson v Scruggs

Big football weekend here in the land of the slabbed; but, no sports channel was covering the settlement game – and one is definitely playing in Wilson v Scruggs.

Almost simultaneously with their settlement with Team Scruggs, Team Wilson filed a weak response to co-defendant Steve Patterson’s Motion to Dismiss – an obvious incentive to settle.

Apparently, it was also incentive for Eastland to stick with the playbook while co-counsel Greer went with the legal equivalent of wild Rebel and filed across-claim for Patterson that suggests there is still more to learn about the money paid Ed Peters:

Patterson’s only involvement in the circumstances surrounding this action was Continue reading “Eastland stands behind Motion to Dismiss – Greer files cross-claim for Patterson in Wilson v Scruggs”

duck, duck, goose – Balducci taps Delaughter

Balducci, who was questioned as part of the unrelated Eaton v. Frisby lawsuit, is expected to testify against DeLaughter, who goes on trial Aug. 17 in U.S. District Court in Oxford on corruption charges. DeLaughter has insisted he is innocent, following the law in his rulings.

The sweet potato king is back in the news – exactly how seems to be the question:

Contacted for comment about the deposition, DeLaughter’s attorney, Thomas Durkin of Chicago, remarked, “I find it very curious how a sealed document ended up in the hands of the press, and it’s more proof to me that money is the root of all evil. People will do a lot of things and say a lot of things to protect their money. Someone is obviously attempting to poison the jury venire.”

Even more curious than a sealed document ending up in the hands of the press is the difference between the babbling Balducci in the recorded conversations of Scruggs I and the standard-English speaking witness he became as a witness.

And, then, there’s the matter of the Motion to Dismiss the Indictment for Government Misconduct Occurring Before the Grand Jury. Continue reading “duck, duck, goose – Balducci taps Delaughter”

of loose lips and sinking ships Part 2 – Balducci’s extraordinary cooperation continues

Balducci’s extraordinary cooperation began when his attempt to bribe Judge Lackey was recorded by the FBI – a bribe that had nothing to do with Dick Scruggs; yet, everything to do with his conviction.

Balducci's "extraordinary cooperation" filed yesterday in Wilson v Scruggs

His continued cooperation was assured by the absence of related charges and the terms of his Plea Agreement:

VIOLATIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT. If defendant violates this agreement, all statements made pursuant hereto will all be admissible against defendant who hereby waives the provisions of Rule II(f) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rule 410 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Defendant may also, in that event, be prosecuted for all federal offenses, including perjury and false statements relating to this plea agreement.

The timely and extraordinary cooperation Balducci provided yesterday adds to the written record in Wilson v Scruggs and the government’s related case, USA v Delaughter. h/t Y’all.