By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Zach Scruggs’ attorneys say a thin government response to his efforts to undo his 2008 guilty plea removes every issue except one.
That one is whether he participated in a bribe of Circuit Judge Henry Lackey or was part of a conspiracy to do so.
Scruggs, 36, of Oxford, was indicted with four others in November 2007 as part of a judicial bribery conspiracy.
In the end, four months later, the government dropped the bribery charges in exchange for his guilty plea to knowing about an illegal communication with Lackey and not reporting it.
For that plea, he spent 14 months in prison, paid a big fine and lost his law license.
The new document also confirms what was reported by the Daily Journal weeks ago – that Scruggs agreed months ago never to seek reintatement of his law license.
Now, he says new evidence, including government falsehoods to the court, will prove he was not guilty of the bribery scheme and that what he pleaded guilty to is not now a crime.
Legal blogger Thomas Freeland of Oxford terms Scruggs’ new filing this week “very aggressive and a pointed reply” to how the U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to his motion to vacate his conviction.
The Scruggs filing says that since the government did not contest various points Scruggs’ motion raises, it “therefore effectively conceded” them.
One curious point raised is that, with Lackey working undercover for the FBI, he demanded money to do something that Mississippi law already compelled him to do – to send to arbitration a legal-fees lawsuit against Scruggs’ father and others.
“Thus … any payment to Judge Lackey was not a bribe and, under Skilling, not criminal,” the document says.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Skilling v. USA, narrowed the federal bribery charge to cases involving only bribery or kickbacks.
Scruggs says his conviction for what’s termed “earwigging” a judge is neither, and thus, must be thrown out.
The response to the government also includes copies of e-mails discussed in the criminal case, which show more fully that Scruggs meant something very different than was characterized by prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers will consider the issues.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.