UPDATE: Government objects to Zach Scruggs' motion to vacate sentence

OXFORD – Government lawyers objected today to Zach Scruggs’ motion to throw out his federal conviction related to a bribery scheme that rocked the Mississippi legal community in 2007.

“The government respectfully differs” with Scruggs’ view that he was forced to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit and that his former counsel was secretly working with the government for another client.

Today was the deadline for the response to be filed.

In the 17-page document, prosecutors also say Scruggs of Oxford failed an FBI polygraph “showing deception when he said that he knew nothing about money changing hands.”

They also said an original co-defendant, then-Oxford attorney Sidney Backstrom, also failed a polygraph that Scruggs knew that Timothy Balducci had given money to Circuit Judge Henry Lackey for help with a lawsuit against Scruggs’ father, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs of Oxford.

Backstrom, Dickie Scruggs, Balducci and his colleague Steven Patterson pleaded guilty to a scheme to bribe Lackey, who was working undercover for the FBI. They all were sentenced to prison time.

Zach Scruggs says he pleaded guilty to knowing that Balducci had illegal conversations with Lackey about their case, but he maintains that he never knew about a bribe.

His then-attorney, Anthony Farese of Ashland, insists he was not working behind Zach Scruggs’ back when he represented then-Booneville attorney Joey Langston, who soon after the first indictments pleaded guilty to another judicial bribery scheme.

Zach Scruggs served 14 months in prison. His new motion states that new evidence shows he is innocent of all charges, and he asks the court to give him a chance to prove it.

• For more details, read Wednesday’s Daily Journal or come back to NEMS360.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal