If the smoke’s rising, it’s mighty thin so far from a new federal grand jury convened this week in Oxford for its secret proceedings.

Speculation was hot last week that the grand jury would take up evidence about the alleged bribery of Hinds Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter by former trial lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others.

Now, the talk – by sources close to the case – centers on former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters, DeLaughter’s former boss, who reportedly has crucial information for prosecutors, if he decides to cooperate.

In a January guilty plea, former Booneville attorney Joey Langston admitted under oath that Peters was a key actor in carrying information back and forth between Scruggs and DeLaughter in Scruggs’ alleged efforts to make sure the judge ruled in his favor in the lawsuit Wilson v. Scruggs. Roberts Wilson, then a Jackson attorney, sued Scruggs for a larger share of legal fees he said he was owed from nationwide asbestos cases.

DeLaughter insists he has done nothing wrong, but he was suspended indefinitely from the bench while the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance investigates allegations of improper conduct related to his rulings.

Insiders say the current federal investigators may be trying to work out a plea deal acceptable to Peters and to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Division, which also has come into the case.

Sources say the U.S. Attorney’s Office may have offered Peters a deal, which the Department of Justice later disapproved when it received more allegations of wrongdoing between Peters and DeLaughter.

NE MS Daily Journal