By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zach Scruggs’ attorney Tuesday gave 11 reasons why federal prosecutor Robert Norman should be disqualified from a government legal team later this month.
Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers will hear arguments on the issue May 9.
Scruggs seeks to have his 2008 conviction and sentence thrown out. He pleaded guilty to knowing about but not reporting that a colleague spoke illegally to Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, presiding over a legal-fees lawsuit against him and others.
Tuesday’s filing, in anticipation of next week’s hearing, is the most brutal yet at discrediting Norman and his actions during Scruggs’ prosecution with his famous father, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and three others accused of a scheme to bribe Lackey to send the lawsuit to arbitration.
Scruggs’ attorney, Edward Robertson Jr. of Missouri, accuses Norman of prosecutorial misconduct surrounding misrepresentations to the court about Zach Scruggs’ alleged involvement in the scheme, and knowledge of false testimony and withholding material information from the grand jury, which indicted all of them.
The harsh tone of the new filing may come from a sentence on the 15-page document’s Page 8, where Robertson tells the court that the government now concedes Norman knew the court was given false information prior to Scruggs’ taking a plea deal, instead of going on trial.
“Yet, Mr. Norman did not allow the truth to come out until 2010, conveniently after (Scruggs) had served his prison time,” he states.
Scruggs, now 36, served a 14-month sentence, paid a $250,000 fine and was on supervised release for a year after his prison time.
“Through his acts and failures to act, Mr. Norman is now placed in the unfortunate position of defending his own actions,” Robertson says. “This is precisely the reason disqualification is necessary in this case.”
A week ago, in the government’s response to the motion to disqualify Norman, U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division Chief Chad Lamar wrote that Norman’s participation in Scruggs’ sentence-vacation hearing was important because he “is the only remaining prosecutor at the office with institutional knowledge of the case since its inception.”
Lamar said without Norman a “hardship” would be put on the government for the proceeding.
Scruggs claims that he pleaded guilty, although he was innocent, out of fear of lengthy prison time after the government told the court it had a witness who would say Zach Scruggs knew about another judicial bribery case.
That witness, Joey Langston of Booneville, later gave sworn testimony that Zach Scruggs knew nothing about the scheme aimed at Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.