Backstrom, Scruggses face July sentencing

A packed U.S. District Courthouse is likely July 2 when a judge decides the fate of famed litigator Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and two others brought down in a scheme to bribe a judge.

They also are likely to hear from witnesses who want Senior Judge Neal Biggers to know why mercy should be granted their loved ones, friends or colleagues.

Although Biggers has the authority to do something else, here is what the prosecution has recommended in the plea agreements:

– Dickie Scruggs – maximum five years in prison, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised probation.

– Zach Scruggs – probation in lieu of a maximum three years in prison, $250,000 fine.

– Sidney Backstrom – prison term of no more than half of what Dickie Scruggs gets, $250,000 fine, three years’ supervised probation.

When Dickie Scruggs and Backstrom, 38, pleaded guilty in mid-March, Biggers asked for the usual presentencing investigation and report, which offers guidelines for how offenders may be sentenced. Although he said he expected it to take up to six weeks, it took a little longer.

Defense attorneys have until June 11 to comment on the reports, then the government will have another seven days to respond.

According to their indictment, the five men faced 75 years in prison, a maximum $1.5 million in fines and 18 years of supervised probation. At their pleadings, no mention was made of any other financial penalties.

When Balducci and Patterson were the first to plead guilty, they did so agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors with the hope the court would be lenient with them.

Zach Scruggs, 33, was the last to plead guilty. He pleaded to a lesser charge – misprision of a felony, which means he had knowledge of it but didn’t report it.

A source close to the case speculated that so many “hands” have been on the presentencing reports that Biggers likely will have to resolve their disagreements.

Daily Journal
5/31/8