In the hearing this morning, Zach Scruggs was notably absent. The fact that Sid Backstrom has agreed in his plea agreement to cooperate strongly suggests that Zach has more exposure than previously, because Sid Backstrom will be able to present an “inside view” of what was going on in the Scruggs Law Firm. After the pleas and a ten-minute recess, the judge called up the remaining motions, noting that the major motion before him was the motion to dismiss based on purported misleading statements to the grand jury. Zach Scruggs’s lawyer said he would stand on the pleadings on that motion, and the judge overruled it.
The court asked about other matters. The lawyer noted that there was a discovery motion and a jury motion out there, and that he would like an opportunity to negotiate with the prosecutors and come back if they could not reach agreement, that there were decisions that had been made that did not apply to single defendants in the way they would to a group. Judge Biggers answered that this was reasonable. The lawyer responded that he had a concern with trying the case as scheduled. He noted that the jury just got the questionnaires and jury summonses and would now hear all the publicity about the guilty pleas.
Judge Biggers responded that the questionnaires had gone out but the jurors did not know the names of the defendants although they might surmise it. Defense counsel: I believe they will. I believe there will be a need for a hearing on the conspiracy issues remaining and whether the 404(b) evidence is to be excluded before there could be a trial.
Judge Biggers responded that the court had sent out 200 summonses for March 31st, which would be a waste of effort if the trial was continued. He stated he would let the parties confer and get back to him in five days.
This made two things clear: Unless something changes, the trial is still on, and the parties are negotiating. If there was a deal within reach for Zach they would have made it. Perhaps the changes in circumstance will allow a deal to be struck, but it was not evident in the courtroom.