Zach Scruggs sentenced to 14 months

Judge Biggers and Mike Moore had words (to the point that Judge Biggers told Mike Moore to quit interupting). The defense side was so unprepared for a sentence with jail time that Mike Moore stated to the court that they knew other defendants had asked for the court to make a recommendation as to a specific place to serve the time, but “We were not prepared to do that. We have not given any consideration about where Mr. Scruggs would go.”

Zach Scruggs sentencing, from the courtroom

[Zach] Scruggs: “I am deeply sorry and regretful for my involvement in this case. I wish I could go back a year ago. I could have stopped what happened and that’s why I am here today.”

[Todd] Graves: “This is a tragedy for him personally of his own making.” Asked the court to take into consideration that the “main individual was the defendant’s father and mentor and that should be something the court should take into account.”

[Mike] Moore: “I’ve known Zach since he was a little boy. I’ve counseled with him and worked with him over the last year. He’s remorseful.”

Judge Biggers explains the sentence and Mike Moore argues with him…

Judge Biggers:

As counsel and government both know, any pleas for leniences are not binding on the court. The court is primarily bound by the sentencing guidelines and the law. Yours is a sad case, Mr. Scruggs. The primary actor is your father and this would not have happened without him. This makes it even sadder. The evidence shows you were involved in the effort to corrupt Judge Lackey. You took the corrupt order and made comments on it.

Based on the evidence on the tape… and which I heard, it was clear you not only knew what was going on, you helped. You shake your head, Mr. Moore, but I have heard the tapes.

Moore: I’ve heard the tapes. [Moore started saying that the tapes showed Zach was uninvolved.]

Judge: Mr. Moore, I’ve listened to every tape….

Moore: Zach Scruggs never was involved in any conspiracy to bribe a judge.

Court: He is not being sentenced for any conspiracy to bribe Judge Lackey.

Moore: The only thing Zach knew was that Tim Balducci was going to meet Judge Lackey. He didn’t know about anything improper. [Describes Nov. 1, when Tim Balducci came into the office wearing a wire. Moore claims Zach only walked into the room.] It may be a distinction without a difference.

Court: He hasn’t plead guilty to bribery, and I’m not going to sentence him on that. In meetings about firm business with Sid Backstrom, it stretches credulity that Backstrom never mentioned money was being sent to Judge Lackey. I’m not going to base the sentence on that, but I’m not going to say I believe Zach on that, either.

Moore: In all the tapes, Zach Scruggs is not mentioned.

Dawson disagrees

Court: Another thing that impresses me negatively when you and Balducci and Backstrom were discussing this order order how it should be and what it should be. The statements he made on the tape show that he had no respect for the circuit court of Lafayette County. The things that “you said thumbs your nose at the court and contradict youre statement that you had great respect for the courts.”

Based on the guidelines, this is not a binding plea bargain.

Moore interrupts, and says that “We asked for that during the plea.” And after the judge goes on repeats it again, until finally the judge says, with some heat, “If I want to hear from you any more I will ask you.” Moore keeps talking about the non-binding nature of the plea!

Judge Biggers: There never was 11 (c)(1)(C).

Moore: We attempted to and the government said that this court will not accept a binding plea on probation.

Court: I am going to give some weight to the government recommendation for lenience. Under the guidelines the sentence would be 21-27 months. [Sentenced Zach to 21-27 months, 14 months supervised release. He stated he was going to depart upward on the statutory guidelines on the fine, because he wanted a combined sentence that reflects the seriousness of the offense. He is going to set the fine to offset the cost of imprisonment and probation, at $250,000. Zach is to be able to report on his own.

Moore: Notes Zach’s wife is pregnant and asks that Zach be able to report after the child is born in October.

Court: You may file a written motion.

Moore asks for 30 days to pay the fine, which the court granted. At that point the hearing ended on the exchange noted in my first post where Moore said that the defense side was unprepared for jail time.