The Sun Herald, 3/15/9

It’s known as honest-services mail fraud and one count could land you in a federal prison for up to 20 years.

Throw in the potential for a $250,000 fine and it’s no wonder a battle over the federal statute is shaping up early in the high-profile judicial bribery case of Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

DeLaughter, who inspired the movie “Ghosts of Mississippi” in the 1990s by prosecuting a man who killed a civil rights leader, pleaded not guilty Feb. 12 to five charges in the alleged scheme — conspiracy, obstruction and three counts of mail fraud.

DeLaughter has said he did nothing wrong.

DeLaughter’s attorneys asked for a delay of his April 6 trial, in part to craft a defense to the mail fraud charges, which are “becoming a nationally controversial topic and, thus, will necessarily become a significant legal issue in this case,” according to a motion filed last week.

“It’s an issue which we intend to vigorously pursue in our pretrial motions,” DeLaughter’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin of Chicago, told The Associated Press.