Prosecutors ask for time in Zach Scruggs’ appeal

By PATSY BRUMFIELD / NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Federal prosecutors in Oxford say they need more direction from Washington before they respond to Zach Scruggs’ motion to vacate his 2008 conviction.
The end of the 30 days Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers gave them to answer Scruggs’ appeal, filed Aug. 18, has arrived.
Scruggs, 36, of Oxford pleaded guilty March 31, 2008, to knowing about an illegal contact or to “earwig” Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City about ordering arbitration in Jones v. Scruggs, a lawsuit over Hurricane Katrina insurance case legal fees.
He served 14 months in prison, lost his law license and paid a $250,000 fine.
His appeal to throw out his conviction is based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Skilling v. USA, that narrowed the law in so-called “honest service” cases to bribery or kickbacks.
Scruggs contends he pleaded guilty to neither, just the earwigging.
He also claims that new evidence will prove his innocence.
Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Norman filed a motion for another 30 days to respond.
He says he’s waiting for approval of his proposed response by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has new guidelines for prosecutors relating to Skilling cases.
Scruggs originally was charged as part of a conspiracy to bribe Lackey. But those charges were dismissed for his plea to misprision of a felony.
His co-defendants pleaded guilty to one count and were sentenced to prison. Sid Backstrom is back home Oxford, Timothy Balducci is on house arrest in New Albany and Steven Patterson is believed to be finishing his sentence in a Tupelo halfway house.
Only Scruggs’ father, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, remains in prison. His release date is 2015 because of a second guilty plea in another judiciary bribery case.

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