By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
Three sworn affidavits are two-edged swords in a dispute between Zach Scruggs and his former attorney, Tony Farese.
The statements from April insist Farese did not cross the ethical line when he represented Scruggs and then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston at the same time in late 2007.
Scruggs, of Oxford, was under investigation in the case prosecutors named Scruggs I, and Langston in the case Scruggs II. Both judicial bribery schemes focused on Zach’s father, famous litigator Richard “Dickie” Scruggs.
The affidavits became public Thursday as exhibits in Zach Scruggs’ motion to vacate his 2008 sentence resulting from his guilty plea to knowing about a crime but not reporting it.
He contends that the crime was an illegal conversation with Judge Henry L. Lackey of Calhoun City, presiding over a legal-fees lawsuit against Dickie Scruggs and others.
Zach Scruggs maintains that he was pressured into the guilty plea by government lawyers who told the court Langston would testify against the defendants, especially that Zach knew about the second scheme. That could put him in even deeper legal jeopardy.
Langston’s six-page statement says he assured Farese and the government that Zach Scruggs “had no involvement in … Scruggs II.”
Jim Greenlee, who was Scruggs I’s chief prosecutor as U.S. attorney, declined to comment Thursday.
In a formal complaint to the Mississippi Bar Association, Zach Scruggs also accuses Farese, a well-known defense attorney, of working the Langston deal without telling him.
Farese denies the allegation and insists the two cases were entirely separate.
Langston was Dickie Scruggs’ defense attorney in late 2007, when both Scruggses, a law partner and two others were indicted on six counts related to attempted bribery.
Ultimately, all of the Scruggs I defendants pleaded guilty and got prison time and fines. Zach Scruggs completed his 14-month stint, although he is still under federal supervision.
Langston is still in federal prison after pleading guilty to Scruggs II, a scheme to bribe Circuit Judge Bobby Delaughter in Hinds County, who presided over another legal-fees lawsuit against Dickie Scruggs and others.
Delaughter insists he was not bribed, but he’s serving prison time after admitting he lied to FBI agents about improper discussions in the case.
In his affidavit, Langston also insists that he “never, to anyone, revealed, disclosed or suggested facts, strategy or opinions I learned as a result of meetings with the defendants in Scruggs I or their respective attorneys.”
In his plea deal, Langston agreed to cooperate fully with the government in matters related or unrelated to his crime.
But his April 27, 2010, statement said that “no member” of the prosecution team ever asked him about what he “learned from my former clients, the other defendants or their attorneys.”
In his book, “King of Tort,” published in late 2009, former prosecutor Tom Dawson writes, however, that Langston and Farese “made a desperate pitch for immunity (for Langston), offering to testify against (Dickie) Scruggs in the Delaughter case.”
Zach Scruggs contends that whatever Langston reportedly would testify to in Scruggs II would hurt his Scruggs I defense.
The affidavit of former prosecutor David Sanders, now a U.S. magistrate, echoes that Langston told them Zach Scruggs knew nothing about the Delaughter scheme.
But Bob Norman, still a federal prosecutor, states, “I recall Langston telling me that Zach Scruggs had to have known about it.”
All three statements were secured by Farese to defend himself in the Bar complaint filed in March. They say the Ashland attorney repeatedly walked a fine line between the two cases and his two clients.
Norman’s statement is also curious because it goes into some detail about a Dec. 10, 2007, warning to Langston that “no harm had better come to Timothy R. Balducci or his family.”
Balducci of New Albany delivered bribe money to Lackey, who was assisting the government’s sting. Then Balducci was arrested and flipped as a government informant against his co-defendants.
Norman said they didn’t expect Langston personally to do Balducci harm, “but from his former representation of many violent criminals in Prentiss County … we knew that he had some very dangerous people who were indebted to him and other very dangerous individuals who would like to have him indebted to them.”
Langston, Norman said, assured them “he would make sure that did not happen.”
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.