OXFORD – Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. on Thursday ordered prosecutors to respond to Zach Scruggs’ motion to throw out his conviction and sentence in a north Mississippi judicial bribery scandal.
Scruggs, 36, of Oxford pleaded guilty in March 2008 to not reporting that he knew about a crime, which was an illegal conversation with the judge in a legal-fees lawsuit over Hurricane Katrina insurance cases.
Almost a month ago, Scruggs’ attorneys said new evidence and legal developments showed he is innocent of the charges that sent him to prison for 14 months and cost him his law license and career.
Thursday, Biggers gave the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford 30 days to respond.
Biggers has presided over all the proceedings against Zach Scruggs, his father Richard Scruggs and other co-defendants in a scandal that rocked Mississippi’s legal community when it went public in late 2007.
All the defendants pleaded guilty and went to prison, although as the last one, Zach Scruggs’ attempted bribery counts were dismissed for one charge of knowing but not reporting the crime, which he terms “earwigging.”
His new motion is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to narrow the honest services law to just bribery and kickbacks, which Scruggs and others say is not what he pleaded guilty to.
He also asked for a hearing to prove his innocence. None of the defendants ever went to trial.
His motion tells the court “respectfully” that several of its central rulings in his case “were based on the inaccurate information provided to the court by the government.”
Especially not true, he says, was the government’s story to Biggers that then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston would testify that Zach Scruggs knew about another bribery plot.
A recent sworn statement by Langston, who is in prison because of that scheme, insists Zach Scruggs knew nothing about a plan to bribe a Hinds County judge in another legal-fees lawsuit against Richard Scruggs.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal