DeLaughter, Langston home after prison stints

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Former Booneville attorney Joey Langston will sleep in his own bed tonight.
For the past 24 months, his less-than-elegant bunk has been in an Alabama federal prison camp.
Last week, former Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter did the same after a similar experience in Kentucky.
Both men, while at the top of their game, were brought low and lost their careers in a legal scandal still felt across Mississippi.
Langston, 53, had just been honored as Mississippi’s Trial Lawyer of the Year.
DeLaughter, 57, still basked in the glow of books and movies, which portrayed him most flatteringly as the prosecutor who finally brought to justice one of Mississippi’s most notorious civil rights-era killers.
Then both men pleaded guilty to federal charges related to a scheme to illegally influence DeLaughter, the presiding judge in a long-running lawsuit over legal fees in a national asbestos case.
Friends say today will be what they term “family day” at the Langston home, a sprawling white-columned mansion on Booneville’s south side.
Langston’s wife, Tracie, has been in charge of the family’s extensive financial and physical assets since her husband went to prison in 2009.
Often, many of them faithfully made the trek to visit him in the facility associated with Maxwell Air Force Base near Birmingham.
Langston’s world of success and high-profile philanthropy came to a crashing end on Jan. 7, 2008, when he pleaded guilty to paying $1 million to former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, a longtime friend and former boss of DeLaughter.
Granted immunity from prosecution, Peters told investigators he told DeLaughter that his name would be put on the list for a federal judgeship, if he ruled favorably to lawsuit defendant, then-Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others.
More than a year later, Scruggs pleaded guilty to seeking to improperly influence DeLaughter, and he had extra time put on a five-year prison term he was serving for a guilty plea in another scheme, that one to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, who was presiding over another legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs and associates.
DeLaughter insists he was never bribed, although he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Peters.
He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and this week wraps up his detention after a short stint in a New Orleans half-way house to prepare for transition back to “free world” life, which officially begins Saturday.
March 24, Langston saw his prison time shortened by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills, who accepted prosecutors’ requests to allow house detention for Langston, rather than completing his sentence in a half-way house.
People familiar with the case expected some reward for Langston’s “substantial assistance,” as the government phrased it, in the Lackey-case prosecution of Scruggs, his son and three associates.
Langston was Scruggs’ attorney when the government put Langston in its investigative crosshairs.
Today, Langston reportedly comes home in much better physical shape than when he left, although management of his diabetes was an issue throughout his incarceration. An avid tennis player, he found that sport and regular running to be beneficial distractions in prison.
He’ll be on an electronic monitor, which he’ll pay for, while he wraps up his detention, which is set to end Nov. 25.
Still, both men will be under supervised release for a couple of years, with certain restrictions attached to it.
But now, they are likely to feel free for the first time in a while.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at(662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.