DeLaughter lawyers seek dismissals

In a motion filed late Thursday, DeLaughter’s attorneys are asking U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson to dismiss four of the five counts.

“This case marks the most extreme effort to date by federal prosecutors to enforce a federal code of ethics against an elected local official under the honest services fraud statute,” wrote DeLaughter’s attorneys, Thomas Anthony Durkin of Chicago, John Cline of San Francisco and Larry Little of Oxford.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Norman of Oxford said he had not seen the motions and could not comment.

The indictment, the defense attorneys wrote, doesn’t allege DeLaughter improperly ruled in Scruggs’ favor in the case involving a former Scruggs associate who sued for a bigger cut from their successful asbestos litigation. “Similarly, the indictment does not charge that Judge DeLaughter received anything of value from Scruggs.”

DeLaughter has maintained his innocence and said his rulings followed the law. Since March 2008, he has been suspended while the state Judicial Performance Commission pursues the matter. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy in a bribery scheme and one count of obstruction of justice.

Scruggs already has pleaded guilty in a plea bargain that gave him seven years in prison – and hopes his continuing cooperation will further reduce that sentence.

Defense attorneys also want to inspect federal grand jury minutes, saying they fear the panel was “improperly influenced … by what appears to be a flagrant violation of the grand jury secrecy provisions.”

Jerry Mitchell
Clarion Ledger