JACKSON – Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter received only a “meaningless courtesy call” rather than anything of value, and the bulk of the corruption case against him should be dropped, his lawyers have argued.
Attorneys for the Hinds County judge said in court papers filed Tuesday that the case boils down to a courtesy call from a U.S. senator and does not constitute a crime.
DeLaughter is accused of exchanging favorable rulings for consideration for a seat on the federal bench. He pleaded not guilty and denies doing anything wrong. Trial is set for August.
Prosecutors say imprisoned former lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs influenced DeLaughter by promising to help him get the federal appointment with his high-powered connections, specifically then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, Scruggs’ brother-in-law.
Scruggs is serving a total of seven years for his role in two alleged bribery conspiracies, one involving a different judge, and is cooperating with authorities.
DeLaughter is charged with conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud and obstruction. The motion, which did not address the obstruction charge, argues the conspiracy and mail fraud counts should be thrown out. It says bribery is “the exchange of (or an agreement to exchange) official action for something of value.”
“If this case boils down to a judge who received ex parte contacts on one hand and a litigant who arranged a meaningless courtesy call on the other, there is no crime at all, much less a federal felony offense,” DeLaughter’s attorneys argued.
Prosecutors have said consideration for a seat on the federal bench is, in itself, a thing of value and DeLaughter let Scruggs take advantage of his ambitions to be a federal judge.
DeLaughter was presiding over a dispute over millions of dollars in fees from asbestos lawsuits when prosecutors say he was improperly influenced.
The Associated Press