By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ORLEANS – Former Oxford attorney Zach Scruggs lost a big step toward proving his innocence in a 2007 judicial bribery scandal that rocked Mississippi’s legal community.
Thursday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed his 2008 conviction and sentence should stand.
“Everybody’s very disappoint- ed,” said Scruggs’ chief attorney, Edward “Chip” Robertson Jr.
“We’re just going to have to spend some time digesting what the court said and see if we have any grounds for appeal.”
Now 37, Scruggs was arrested on Nov. 28, 2007, along with his famous litigator father Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs and three others on multi-count indictments accusing them of conspiracy, wire fraud and attempted bribery of Circuit Judge Henry L. Lackey of Calhoun City.
Lackey presided over a legal-fees lawsuit against the Scruggses and others.
The government claimed their illegal confederation began months before when someone in a Scruggs firm meeting suggested New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci chat with his mentor, Lackey, about sending the lawsuit to arbitration.
Ultimately, Lackey helped the government and asked for money, Balducci paid it and Dickie Scruggs and partner Sid Backstrom came to know about it.
Zach Scruggs steadfastly denied knowing anything about a bribe.
In 2008, he pleaded guilty to knowing about the Lackey chat but failing to report it. He lost his law license, spent 14 months in prison and paid a $250,000 fine.
His appeal was based on various legal contentions, but a centerpiece was that the crime he pleaded guilty to in 2008 is no longer a crime under the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Skilling v. USA.
Scruggs declined a public comment Thursday.