Scruggs', others' early releases may be before court

OXFORD – Sealed motions in the judicial bribery case known as “Scruggs I” could be early prison-release requests for Richard “Dickie” Scruggs of Oxford and others, a new U.S. District Court document suggests.
Another order signed Monday appoints Judge Sharion Aycock to preside over a parallel civil case, Wilson v. Scruggs et al, after Senior Judge Neal B. Biggers Jr. stepped aside Friday.
Called “Scruggs I” by prosecutors, the criminal case involves the admitted attempt to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City by Scruggs, then one of the nation’s most prominent plaintiffs’ attorneys, former state Auditor Steven A. Patterson, then-New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci and Scruggs’ law partner Sidney Backstrom.
They are serving prison terms. Scruggs’ son, Zach, who pleaded guilty to a lesser offense, recently completed his prison term.
“I’d guess that this means that the government has filed motions in Scruggs I for a benefit for defendants’ cooperation for assisting in the case against DeLaughter – which could mean for Scruggs, Patterson or Balducci,” wrote Oxford attorney Thomas Freeland IV on his Internet blog Monday. Backstrom wasn’t involved in the DeLaughter scheme.
The three reportedly gave information to prosecutors about Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter of Hinds County, who later was federally indicted on charges he allowed himself to be bribed by Scruggs and others for help in a long-running legal fees dispute with attorney W. Roberts Wilson.
DeLaughter recently pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in that case, although he insists he was not bribed.
Meanwhile, Wilson persists with the old and new lawsuits against Scruggs for the fees.
The new lawsuit, in Northern Mississippi federal court, is the one Biggers took himself out of last week, saying he already had presided over the criminal case involving four of the civil suit’s defendants. And now, the “currently under seal” motions involve the same defendants, he said.
That situation means, Biggers wrote, he would have to deal with issues that may overlap.
While Biggers’ order made no reference to former Booneville attorney Joey Langston, a similar sealed motion may be before Chief Judge Michael Mills, asking for a benefit similar to Scruggs, Patterson and Balducci, Freeland speculates.
In January 2008, Langston pleaded guilty in the DeLaughter case – dubbed “Scruggs II” – just months after Scruggs and the others were indicted in the Lackey case. He reportedly gave substantial assistance to the government for both cases.
Langston also is serving prison time.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com. Read her blog, From the Front Row, on NEMS360.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal