I’ve been hoping that being in Oxford this week would help me put some closure on what I hope is the last “Scruggs” legal event. Unfortunately, I am pretty convinced that this won’t be the last hoorah, but as I’ve said a thousand times, the more they fight the inevitable, the more we find out about what actually happened.

My overall impression is that Zach’s team seems intent to try and parse every little thing to the point of absurdity. In other words, if you try to read something an inch from your face, the words are blurry. But when you hold the page at a normal reading distance, it’s pretty clear. Zach’s team is attempting to blur and scatter each word, but the larger context (to me, at least) seems pretty clear both both what was said by key players and what was not said.

ATMOSPHERICS
There were a couple of surprise guests in the courtroom. I was struck that Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone was in attendance. After the Robert Khayat letter on behalf of Dickie and how poorly that was taken by Biggers, the appearance of Ole Miss top brass in support of Zach just struck me. Patsy Brumfield also reported that Ken Nowlin (who has a similar 2255 motion pending) was there. There were most definitely Zach supporters there as well as lawyers representing some lingering Scruggs lawsuit parties out there, but it was not an overflowing courtroom by any stretch.

THE TRIAL THAT NEVER WAS
Balducci on the stand was the star witness in the case that never really happened. Zach’s team, led by Chip Robertson, called Tim Balducci first. Balducci has aged noticeably since his videotape debut in 2007. His hair is noticeably grayer. It’s safe to say that he had a rough day. One thing that seemed clear to me about Balducci on both direct and cross was that he hasn’t spent a lot of time dwelling on these events since he got out. Though he was a credible witness, he did not have command of the dates and times of meetings/phone calls and had to be prompted along by both sides. Based on his demeanor, it’s pretty obvious to me that he has put this largely behind him.

Robertson spent most of the morning trying to establish that Zach had never talked to Tim about the money explicity. Robertson also threw Dickie and Sid and Steve Patterson under the bus and was very clear that they were “the bad guys.” They talked very openly and candidly about their guilt as well as Balducci’s.

Chad Lamar, leading the Government’s team, did a really good job in drawing the connective tissue between Zach and the conspiracy. He started by talking to Balducci about the March meeting in the Scruggs Law Firm, where it seemed clear that Zach knew (1) that Balducci was going to see Lackey and (2) why. Next, the fact that Balducci delivered the proposed order to Zach when Dickie wasn’t there (when Balducci picked up his $40K check). Finally, a good bit of time was spent on the Nov 1 transcript where Balducci told Backstrom and Zach about “another load of sweet potatoes” and “get it how you want it”. The killer question he asked was (paraphrasing), “Why didn’t Zach or anyone ask you what the hell you were talking about when you started talking about ‘sweet potatoes’ or that ‘we’re payin’ for it’?” There didn’t seem to be much doubt at the end of it that Balducci thought that while he never had an explicit conversation with Zach about the money that Zach definitely knew what the deal was.

The other argument that Lamar did a great job on was talking about “the right legal decision for Lackey.” Remember that in the Johnny Jones case, Jones asked to compel arbitration with SKG partners almost 20 times. After their refusal, Jones filed suit and SKG immediately tried to get Lackey to compel arbitration per the contract. However, since SKG had refused arbitration so many times, there was a legal argument that could be made that they had in essence waived it permanently and that Lackey would be well within his right to allow discovery and a jury trial. Thus, the argument that Lackey “made the right decision” to compel arbitration and thus “no harm no foul” argument that Robertson pushed may get challenged by the Government.

EMOTIONAL
Balducci stayed composed, but came close to losing composure several times as the audio and video clips of the conspiracy were being played in the courtroom. He professed that this was the first time he saw much of the video or heard the audio. The particularly toughest stretch was when he and Lackey were talking on tape about their friendship. Balducci and Lackey did exchange a warm moment in court before proceedings started on Monday and it’s obvious that even after all this, they still care for each other as friends.

WHAT’S NEXT
Though there may be some intrigue over Dr. Sha Na Na and the admissibility of his testimony, I am waiting to see Backstrom testify and how forcefully he will defend Zach. Remember that the Government has polygraphs from Backstrom and Zach that they assert that both failed although Patsy Brumfield seemed sure that it wasn’t the case. It will be interesting to see if that comes up. The big issue at this point is will Zach ultimately testify? It’s a civil case, and I don’t think he has to, but I would think his case would be dead with Biggers if he didn’t.

There’s also the issue of the ineffective counsel argument that the has had against Tony Farese. Of course, the bar complaint Zach filed against Farese was dismissed as frivolous, but Zach has continued to pound on Farese in this hearing. Will he give that up? If so, that would be total vindication for Farese.