By Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zach Scruggs’ lawyers Friday asked a federal judge to decide some issues slated for hearing on whether to throw out his 2008 conviction and sentence.
Last fall, 36-year-old Scruggs of Oxford asked for his sentence and conviction to be vacated, saying he is innocent of charges he pleaded guilty to under fear of more severe punishment if he went to trial.
U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers set a May 23 hearing “on all the issues,” his order stated.
Friday’s motion for summary judgment asks the court to decide whether it’s possible to deprive the public of an official’s “honest services” without a bribe. Also at issue is whether any federal funds found their way into the circuit court over which Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun presided.
These are purely legal issues. Still to be considered would be disputes about the facts.
If Biggers agreed with Friday’s motion, he still would need to consider whether Scruggs was involved in bribing Lackey.
Witnesses Scruggs’ attorneys have mentioned for the hearing likely will seek to show he had no knowledge of any bribery.
Scruggs pleaded guilty to knowing but not reporting that a colleague spoke illegally to Lackey, who presided over a Katrina insurance case legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs and others.
Subsequently, he went to prison and lost his license to practice law.
Friday, Scruggs’ attorneys asked Biggers to make a direct decision on certain issues, saying “there is no genuine dispute” as to the material facts of what happened in a larger case for which Zach Scruggs was originally indicted.
That case accused him, his father Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and three colleagues of attempting to bribe Lackey to send the lawsuit to arbitration.
Ultimately, all the defendants except Zach Scruggs pleaded guilty to one of the five counts and went to prison.
U.S. prosecutors likely will respond to Scruggs’ motion, then Biggers will consider the new motion and issues in their entirety.
• Read Saturday’s Daily Journal for more details. Go to Patsy Brumfield’s blog, From the Front Row, to read Zach Scruggs’ motion filed today.