By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zach Scruggs asked permission Wednesday to take his 2008 conviction appeal to a higher court.
Scruggs, 37, of Oxford recently lost his case before Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers to throw out his conviction and sentence.
In mid-2008, Scruggs pleaded guilty to knowing about but not reporting that a colleague spoke illegally to Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, who presided over a lawsuit against Scruggs and other attorneys.
If Biggers denies what’s called a “certificate of appealability,” Scruggs can take his request directly to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
His request need only show that “reasonable jurists would find the claim at least debatable,” says Black’s Law Dictionary.
In today’s COA request, Scruggs’ attorneys list some 28 issues as debatable to an appeals court.
Scruggs claims he knew nothing about the attempted bribery of Lackey, and he insists that new evidence also proves he is innocent of the original indictment.
“Reasonable jurists would debate this court’s holding that it has jurisdiction to accept pleas and incarcerate people for non-criminal behavior,” the lengthy document states.
In November 2007, Scruggs, his famous lawyer father Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and three others were indicted on charges they conspired to bribe Lackey.
Eventually, everybody pleaded guilty to reduced charges and went to jail.
Last fall, Zach Scruggs asked Biggers to vacate his conviction and sentence because of a new Supreme Court decision narrowing what’s called “honest services” crimes to just bribery and kickbacks. Scruggs insists he did not plead guilty to either of those.
Just prior to three days of hearings on the issues, Biggers dismissed the federal bribery charges in Scruggs’ original indictment.
Generally, that left at issue whether the younger Scruggs knew about the bribe.
Biggers ruled that he was satisfied sufficient evidence existed to convince at least one “properly instructed juror” that Scruggs knew.
In his appeal request, Scruggs insists no evidence showed he ever joined the bribery conspiracy.