By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zach Scruggs’ attorneys Friday asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear their reasons why his 2008 conviction and sentence should be thrown out.
The Oxford man’s case “is the first, or among the first” to bring to the New Orleans court issues surrounding whether a conviction should be vacated “based upon conduct that was not criminal,” in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Skilling v. U.S.
The Skilling decision vastly narrowed the U.S. honest services crimes statute only to bribery and kickbacks.
A few months ago, Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers denied Scruggs’ appeal in the Northern District of Mississippi, where the case began.
Scruggs pleaded guilty to knowing about but not reporting illegal conversations with Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City, who presided over a lawsuit against Scruggs’ father and associates.
He was sentenced to 14 months in prison, lost his law license and $250,000 in fines.
Soon after his release from prison, he proclaimed he was innocent, especially in light of the Skilling decision. He insisted he never pleaded guilty to bribery or kickbacks.
His attorney father, Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs, and three others, however, pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe Lackey.
They were sentenced to prison, and Dickie Scruggs is the last there.
He, too, has asked the federal court to vacate a subsequent conviction and sentence, but not in the Lackey case.
• Read Saturday’s Daily Journal for more details.