Get away with it he might have, had not one upright North Mississippi circuit judge, Henry Lackey, blown the whistle on the perpetrators. The sting operation and FBI investigation that ensued have so far resulted in guilty pleas from Scruggs, four other attorneys and a hanger-on; a forfeiture of a law license and ill-gotten gains by a sixth attorney; and an indictment of Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
Scruggs, defiant when the first indictments came down, is now supposedly cooperating with authorities. He is expected to be a key witness against DeLaughter, who has claimed his innocence. Scruggs, serving a combined seven-year prison term from his two convictions, has been given promises of immunity from further prosecution and financial penalties if he will rat out others who were involved in these two cases or other instances of corruption.
In their zeal to purge Mississippi’s criminal justice system from this taint, though, federal prosecutors need to be careful that they don’t cut too good a deal for Scruggs. He is the head from which all the corruption flowed. Had he not been dangling the poisoned apple or had surrogates do it for him, there would have been no bites from it.
The corrupter should not get off lighter than those he corrupted.