Judge: Scruggs hearing set on '09 guilty plea

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Former Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs will get his chance to prove he is innocent of a second judicial bribery attempt.
Tuesday, Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson set March 26 for an evidentiary hearing in Aberdeen to allow Scruggs’ attorneys to make their case that his 2009 conviction should be vacated.
At the same time, Davidson denied their court-filed motions asking him to decide their case just on the documents.
Scruggs, 65, pleaded guilty in February 2009 to a scheme to gain an advantage in a legal-fees lawsuit against him and others, presided over by then-Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter in Hinds County.
He received additional prison time on top of the five years he was sentence for his guilty plea in attempting to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, who presided over another legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs.
At the hearing, Scruggs must prove “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him.”
Once one of the country’s most famous litigators, Scruggs insists it was not a bribe but protected free speech when he offered to endorse DeLaughter for a vacant federal judgeship through his brother-in-law, then-Sen. Trent Lott.
In his analysis of the filings, Davidson says Scruggs is wrong to base his appeal on claims the offer was not a corrupt trade-off.
But, Davidson says, the evidentiary hearing will afford Scruggs an opportunity to present his case and cross-examine witnesses.
The judge also denied Scruggs’ motion to interview under oath the men who admitted they helped with the DeLaughter scheme – former Booneville attorney Joey Langston, former New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci and former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters – along with DeLaughter.
“Further discovery is not necessary,” the judge notes, writing that Scruggs’ attorneys will have subpoena power for the hearing.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com