U.S. Attorney Bob Norman, who has been assigned to the Scruggs investigation for several years, said his office is still investigating Birmingham businessman P.L. Blake for his possible involvement in a conspiracy.

Norman wouldn’t comment further about the case. However, a reliable source with direct knowledge of Blake’s investigation said a grand jury indictment could be handed down “sometime in December.”

An attorney for Blake, Tom Freeland of Oxford, had no comment on behalf of his client.

Blake’s possible indictment has been speculated about for years, but nothing has happened. The charges the grand jury is considering against Blake are unknown.
Scruggs, his son Zach, law partner Sidney Backstrom, Patterson and Balducci were charged with conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud. Each pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme and were sentenced to prison. Only Zach Scruggs, who pleaded to not telling authorities about the scheme, is out of prison and living back in Oxford.

If Blake is actually indicted it could become a conflict of interest if local defense lawyer Christi McCoy is selected by President Barack Obama to replace Jim Greenlee as U.S. Attorney, something widely believed will happen at any time.
It was previously reported that the U.S. Attorney’s office asked Patterson about Blake’s involvement in the bribery scheme in front of a grand jury. However, no indictments came at that time.

McCoy is a defense attorney for Patterson and was present when Patterson testified to the grand jury. Her client could be a witness against Blake if the potential case against him went to trial. But a veteran former U.S. attorney said there is a system set up to avoid this conflict-of-interest.

He said McCoy would have to recuse herself from any dealings surrounding the Blake investigation and would not be allowed to look at any of the document.

However, he added, Blake could request that a prosecutor from another district be brought in to handle the case.

Paul Quinn
The Oxford Enterprise
11/1/9