OXFORD – A federal judge Friday threw out multiple counts of a 2007 indictment against Zach Scruggs, narrowing the focus of an upcoming hearing on whether the Oxford man knew about a scheme to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey.
Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers’ order granted and denied various claims Scruggs’ attorneys made last year to have his 2008 conviction and sentence thrown out.
A May 23 hearing is scheduled before Biggers to present evidence, Scruggs says, that he is innocent of all charges.
Friday’s order threw out two counts and part of another in the original six-count indictment related to the bribe attempt.
In the spring of 2007, Lackey went undercover for the FBI after he was approached by then-New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci, who urged the judge to send to arbitration a legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs and others.
Still left to consider, Biggers wrote, is whether Scruggs knew about a conspiracy to bribe Lackey.
The judge also wants evidence on the impact of government misrepresentations that Scruggs knew about another judicial bribery case aimed at Hinds Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter. This issue affects whether Scruggs’ claims meet a one-year statute of limitations.
Biggers’ memorandum on his order said Scruggs still must address the issue of twice receiving corrupt orders from Balducci related to the legal-fees lawsuit and whether he knew about the intent of the payment to Lackey.
Also Friday, the court granted permission for Scruggs’ father Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, to be brought from a Kentucky federal prison, at his son’s expense, to testify at the May 23 hearing.
In November 2007, Scruggs, his attorney father and three others were indicted on allegations they conspired to bribe Lackey and deprive the public of his honest services.
Everyone but Zach Scruggs took government deals for leniency in exchange for their guilty pleas on just one count.
Zach Scruggs was the last to plead and agreed to say he was guilty of knowing about but not reporting illegal contacts with the judge. Biggers sentenced him to 14 months and fined him $250,000.
Last year, a U.S. Supreme Court decision narrowed the federal “honest services” crimes to only bribery or kickback schemes. Scruggs insists he is guilty of neither.
Biggers said he also wants to hear evidence about Scruggs’ claims of ineffective counsel.
Scruggs contends that his original attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, secretly negotiated with the government to get a plea deal for then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston in the DeLaughter bribery scheme while he represented Scruggs. Farese vehemently denies the accusations.
Scruggs said it was this cooperation that led the government to misrepresent that Langston would say Scruggs knew about the DeLaughter scheme, which pressured him to plead guilty for fear of harsher punishment if found guilty at trial.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfieldat (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal