Zach Scruggs asks to question key scandal players before hearing

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Zach Scruggs wants to interview under oath at least 11 “key players” in the legal saga that cost him his career and freedom, for a time.
Scruggs, 36, of Oxford asked the court in mid-February to vacate his conviction and sentence from a 2008 guilty plea that he knew about an illegal conversation between a colleague and the judge presiding over a lawsuit against his father, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others.
He went to prison and permanently lost his license to practice law.
Senior Judge Neal Biggers Jr. set an April 25 hearing on “all issues,” he said. But Biggers also denied a request to discover new evidence, saying the time for that had passed when Scruggs entered his plea.
In a 12-page motion filed Friday morning, he asked the U.S. District Court’s permission to interview:
* Sidney Backstrom – his former legal partner and co-defendant in the judicial bribery scandal alleged to involve a 2007 conspiracy to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City.
* Dickie Scruggs – the primary defendant in the case, which prosecutors called Scruggs I. He is serving a federal prison term in Kentucky.
* Steve Patterson – former state auditor, he was a partner in a New Albany business aimed at building a global mega-lobbying firm.
* Timothy Balducci – Patterson partner, an attorney, who paid Lackey money, at Lackey’s request, as they talked about the judge’s sending to arbitration a lawsuit against Dickie Scruggs and others over Katrina-related insurance cases.
* Judge Henry Lackey – who worked undercover for the FBI and who asked Balducci for money to help Scruggs. Lackey was presiding over the legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs and others.
* William Delaney – FBI special agent in charge of the Lackey investigation, who Zach says was part of the group that first “conceived” the plan for Lackey to ask for money.
* Joey Langston – then a successful Booneville attorney who represented Dickie Scruggs in the Scruggs I case until Langston pleaded guilty to a parallel investigation centered on improper influence of Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
* Anthony Farese – Ashland attorney who represented Zach Scruggs at the beginning of Scruggs I and then was Langston’s attorney when he pleaded guilty to the DeLaughter scheme. Zach Scruggs alleges he represented them at the same time and used his proximity to the Scruggses as bait to get good terms for Langston. Farese denies the accusations.
* Thomas Dawson – then the case’s lead prosecutor who published a book about the case in 2009 and reportedly had knowledge of U.S. negotiations with Langston and Farese. Dawson wrote in his book that the threat of Langston’s testimony broke the back of the defense and forced guilty pleas all around.
* Judge David Sanders – also then an assistant prosecutor in the case, who under oath later said Langston never said Zach Scruggs had anything to do with the DeLaughter scheme. Sanders is a federal magistrate now.
* Robert Norman – current prosecutor minding the case as it relates to Zach’s motion to have his conviction and sentence overturned. Zach Scruggs insists Norman knows about Farese’s representations and Langston’s potential testimony.
Scruggs’ attorney, Edward D. Robertson Jr., also asks the court to allow these depositions “so that the truth in this case can be readily determined and proven.”
Scruggs insists new evidence and a 2010 Supreme Court ruling change the case against him.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.