U.S. Attorneys never say they do or don't have something under investigation.
So when reporters asked USAtty Jim Greenlee this afternoon in Aberdeen if his office has any more investigations into cases related to now-former Judge Bobby DeLaughter's guity plea, he said he couldn't comment.
But, he said, "This is over." That seems plain enough.
Former D.A. Ed Peters, who either got DeLaughter into or equally participated in improper conversations about cases, walks away free as a bird, in this one case. It's not clear if his immunity deal to help prosecutors includes anything else he might have done improperly in the Mississippi courts.
But he does go away without what's left of his $1 million Joey Langston paid him for Dickie Scruggs to subvert the legal-fees lawsuit, Wilson v. Scruggs. And he gave up his law license.
The Aberdeen courtroom was packed with lawyers, DeLaughter family, reporters and gawkers, as usual.
W. Roberts Wilson of Tuscaloosa, the "Wilson" in "v. Scruggs," sauntered in and sat himself down on the row just inside the lawyer/public barrier. Apparently, he wanted to make sure DeLaughter got a good look at him.
If Wilson's Hinds or federal lawsuits move forward, DeLaughter won't be the only one seeing Wilson again. Expect Dickie Scruggs, Ed Peters, Joey Langston, Steve Patterson, Tim Balducci, Trent Lott and maybe even the mysterious P.L. Blake. (I'm not sure we could be that lucky on Blake, though. He seems to be made of more teflon that Peters.)
Amongst the gawkers was a son of Byron Dela Beckwith, who DeLaughter won a conviction for killing civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson in 1963.
Also there was avowed white supremacist Richard Barrett, who usually shows up at events like this just to horn in on media attention. (I hate even to mention his name.) But he was overheard to say, "I bet Delay's having the last laugh now."
Conspicuously absent from the government table was Assistant USAtty. Curtis Ivy, who's been chatted around because of his reported interest in becoming the next U.S. Attorney, even though someone else's name has gone forward. Ivy's name was added to the "team" of record last week when the "chat" heated up.
For the record, now-former Judge DeLaughter looked somewhat distinguished in a dark grey suit, white shirt and striped tie in muted shades of maroon. His hair and beard appeared to have been neatly trimmed recently. (These personal descriptions are obligatory to help readers "see" the proceedings.)
Among the lawyers seated with the gawkers were Tony Farese, Charlie Merkel, Cal Mayo and Tom Freeland, along with retired USAtty.s John Hailman and Tom Dawson.
Merkel, who represents Wilson, insists they are going gangbusters ahead on the cases, saying DeLaughter's plea shows they have a point about punitive damages.
"It tells me we had a corrupt system and it has now been cleansed," Merkel told the media.
This may not mean anything, but Senior Judge Glen Davidson made repeated questions to DeLaughter and his attorneys, asking if they understood that if they didn't like his sentence in about six weeks, they could withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial. Does that mean Davidson is going to put the hammer down over the recommended 18 months?
Durkin was still peeved outside the courthouse, saying he stands by what he said in court - that all the other stuff the government wanted on the record Thursday was not material - that DeLaughter was pleading guilty only to lying, not the other charges. He termed the details "a backdoor effort to prove a case they can't prove ... they know full well."
DeLaughter stood next to him, barely a blink and certainly not a word.
"He apologizes, he feels bad," Durkin said about the way things have gone for DeLaughter.
In my very short "legal" career covering courts, it became obvious from my attorney associates that they considered trying to or bribing a judge to be the worst thing a lawyer could do. Senior Judge Neal Biggers, who presided over the Scruggs cases, showed no mercy in his attitude toward the defendants. It was clear Biggers was highly perturbed at what Scruggs, Balducci, Z. Scruggs, Patterson and Backstrom had one toward Circuit Judge Henry Lackey.
InLangston's case, Chief Judge Mike Mills cut him no slack with a 36-month sentence.
But now, here is a judge, who admits he lied to the FBI about improper conversations over a lawsuit. He did not admit to any suggestions of bribery, but the "whole story" revolves around those allegations. Does Davidson overlook the whole story or not?
Sentencing will be in 6-8 weeks.
In perhaps the only moment of levity in Thursday's proceedings, Chicago defense attorney Thomas Durkin jokingly, but somewhat seriously, asked Judge Davidson if he might set the event for the Ole Miss-Tennessee game weekend because Durkin's Notre Dame has a bye. "I like Ole Miss," he immediately said to the judge.
"Things are complicated enough without that," the judge said, almost under his breath.
Whew! ... patsy
Just when you thought you could go back into the political water, something new happens.
Take today, on a conservative Jackson-based talk radio show: State Supreme Court Chief Justice William Waller Jr. strongly hinted he's considering a run for governor, maybe even as a Democrat.
Now, that's interesting.
For the under-50 set, Waller's dad was governor 1972-76 and couldn't legally succeed himself. That didn't come until Kirk Fordice. Actually, he sought the office again in 1987 but lost in the primary to Ray Mabus.
Before Senior Waller, a Democrat, became governor, he earned a reputation as the D.A. who twice prosecuted Byron DeLa Beckwith for the murder of Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers. Those prosecutions went in Beckwith's favor with hung juries, but a third trial much later by another D.A. yielded a conviction. (That's whole 'nother story for later.)
Justice Waller is known as a conservative and a strong military guy. Presently assigned to the Retired Reserve, he attained the rank of brigadier general while serving as commander of the 66th Troop Command, Mississippi Army National Guard based in Jackson.
He and his wife, Charlotte, have three children and are members of First Baptist Church Jackson where he has recently served as chairman of the deacons.
Justice Waller also comes with Miss. State undergrad creds, and of course, graduated from Ole Miss Law School. He and his dad practiced law together more than 20 years before Waller Jr. came to the Supremes in November 1996.
He's also been active in reform efforts through the Mississippi Bar.
His re-election to the court in 2004 for an eight-year term means he could run for governor in 2011 without jeopardizing his court seat.
Stay tuned everybody ... patsy
Had a 5-minute moment of non-fame late this morning on TruTV's "Court's In Session" or somesuch with former Prez Gerald Ford's son, Jack, talking about Tyler Edmonds' second murder trial in Oktibbeha County.
Of course, the trial occurred last year, and TTV aired it many moons ago. But apparently, they liked it or got good ratings from it, so it's on again this week - cable watchers.
Back when, they called me, since I covered the trial, and asked some really inane questions like, "Don't you think Tyler Edmonds looked older in the second trial?" Well, yes, he was four years older, although he still looks like a kid. (Tyler will look like a kid when he's 50, I bet.)
Anyway, today's interview at 11:30 a.m. was supposed to center on three witnesses – Tyler's father, his mother and the medical examiner. I also was instructed not to reveal how the trial comes out.
Ford very pleasantly asked me about why I thought both sides deferred to the 19-year-old as "Tyler." I said, look, calling him Mister Edmonds would have been just too weird. And frankly, the defense probably was delighted with that fact, which presented their client in a much more personal way throughout the week-long trial.
He also asked me what I thought about the videotape of a Montel Williams show on which appeared Tyler's half-sister, Kristi, and her husband, Joey Fulgham (later to be the murder victim). Did I find it a little much?
Well, yes, Jack, I thought that after the first few minutes, where Kristi confessed to extra-marital affairs and Joey told her he would never let her forget it, the episode was predictably stupid and the jury/court audience could have avoided it.
Well, thanks, Patsy, he said. I've read your accounts of the trial and they were great. Thanks for doing such a great job. Newspapers are so good at stuff like that.
Well, thanks, Jack, I said. Happy to oblige.
My next "interview" with the trial replay will be 9:30 a.m. Friday. I wonder what they're going to tell me to prepare for then?
As always, stay tuned.... patsy
I've been slow to come to this position, but it looks clear now that "something" is going on relating to the appointment of a new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.
The details aren't clear but the talk is fairly pointed.
First, we have Oxford defense attorney Christi R. McCoy's name put forward by U.S. Reps. Bennie Thompson and Travis Childers of Mississippi. McCoy is from Childers' hometown, Booneville, and his support is viewed as strong for her ultimate nomination by President Obama.
Then, D.C. and other reports speculated that the situation may have changed. Some alleged it's because McCoy once worked for disgraced ex-attorney Joey Langston. Frankly, what aspiring young attorney in Prentiss County didn't want to work for Langston back in the mid 1990s?
Anyway, word cropped up last week that Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis Ivy Jr. had made some visits promoting his candidacy. His name came up in the very earliest speculation about candidates, along with several others.
For clarity, McCoy is white and Ivy is black. Childers is white and Thompson is black. And President Obama is black.
I am annoyed even to have to mention race, but it is relevant, somewhat.
Word is now that Ivy and former Northern District U.S. Atty. Buck Buchanan, who is black, have been on a visiting tour to some of the region's black leadership – stumping for nomination of either one of them.
Buchanan, who runs a check-cashing business in Oxford across from The Beacon restaurant, is widely regarded as less than great when he held the post as the state's first black USA during the Clinton Administration. But he also had early interest in greater diversity there and with reaching out to minorities, so maybe that contributes to the report card.
Ivy, who joined the Miss. Bar a few months later than McCoy in 1995, has been a lead assistant USA on the drug task force with criminal cases.
Interesting to me, just a week ago, his name was added to the Bobby DeLaughter prosecution team with stalwarts Robert Norman and Chad Lamar.
Whether Rep. Thompson feels the heat for Ivy is anybody's guess. Thompson is pretty much bullet-proof in his Congressional District, if that even matters in this discussion.
It's widely believed he's put forth the name of Natchez attorney, Deborah McDonald, to gain the Southern District USA post. For clarity, Ms. McDonald, with early experience at Southwest Miss. Legal Services, is black. She is not a household name across the district, but is held with regard by those who know her.
When the White House will get around to making its Mississippi decisions on these top federal legal jobs is anybody's guess. Some members of Congress, who have been asked about the appointments for their respective states, have said they thought the administration's primary focus is getting Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If that's the case, it could be September before we hear anything new.
Stay tuned ... patsy