The Associated Press, 2/28/8

A prominent attorney embroiled in a judicial bribery case paid two associates $500,000 to convince Mississippi’s Attorney General not to file criminal charges against an insurance company, according to court records.

Plaintiffs lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who sued State Farm Fire and Casualty Cos. soon after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was afraid the company “was not going to settle the civil cases” if the attorney general’s office filed criminal charges, according to an FBI report filed Monday in the bribery case.

Attorney General Jim Hood said Wednesday he would not have met with the men if he had known they were paid to persuade him not to file charges. “If I knew they were getting paid that much I would have told them to get out of the office because it just didn’t smell right,” Hood said.

Hood acknowledged meeting with former State Auditor Steve Patterson and attorney Timothy Balducci around Christmas 2006, but said he was not influenced by them.

“It was like they were fishing for information more than anything,” Hood said. “I didn’t get a dime, wasn’t offered a dime and wouldn’t have taken a dime.”