Former “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman and tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand are among those who wrote to Biggers on Scruggs’ behalf. All three were portrayed in the movie “The Insider,” starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
“You have before you a rare man, who has made comforting the afflicted a calling,” Bergman said. “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of consideration, kindness and compassion.”
Among the letters were several written by members of the University of Mississippi staff — Scruggs’ alma matter to which he has donated millions of dollars.
On Ole Miss stationery, Chancellor Robert Khayat called Scruggs and his wife, Diane, two of the “finest people” he knows.
“A man who is willing to help strangers is a man with depth and decency,” Khayat wrote. “A man such as Dick has been amply punished by the loss of his profession and his public stature … It is my belief that any time he spends being incarcerated is an absolute waste of a great deal of talent and ability.”
Khayat also wrote a letter on behalf of Backstrom, albeit considerably shorter.
“… Jail should be limited,” he wrote. “No doubt punishment must be imposed for his plea, but it seems a waste to incarcerate a man who has lived a sterling life.”
Khayat could not be reached Wednesday for comment as he was out of town, according to members of his staff.
Also writing on behalf of Scruggs from Ole Miss was Khayat’s assistant Andy Mullins, Law School Dean Samuel M. Davis, Athletics Director Pete Boone and Vaughn L. Grisham, professor and director of the Ole Miss College of Liberal Arts. Other supporters include former Mississippi Gov. William Winter; local author Curtis Wilkie, who was recently contracted to write a book about the Scruggs’ saga; a number of attorneys; Mike Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids; family members and former school mates.
Law student Lowry Christopher Lomax grew up living near Scruggs, who is a long-time friend of his family. His letter depicted Scruggs as a loving husband, father and grandfather.
“Here you see a man — not painted as a monster by the Wall Street Journal or Clarion Ledger — but the man who loves pulling his granddaughter in tight to his chest, dressing up in flight gear for his grandson’s birthday party or being by his wife’s side as she battles something greater than he does today — a daily fight against fate.”
In total, 248 letters were received on behalf of Dickie Scruggs; 127 for Backstrom and 71 for Zach.
Backstrom’s wife, Kelli, asked Biggers to consider their three children when he sentences her husband Friday.
“Our precious children are devastated over this,” she wrote. “They have asked over and over how their Daddy could do something so bad to be sent to jail. Explaining that to your children is difficult enough and imagine the lasting impact it will have is just simply unbearable.”
Supporting severe sentencing
Economist Dr. Kenneth Eugene Lehrer admitted in his letter he did not know Scruggs or any of the men involved, but felt their behavior has harmed the integrity of the U.S. Judicial System.
“The harm and ongoing dilution of integrity that Richard and Zach Scruggs have caused our society, not to mention the standing of the U.S. Judicial system in the eyes of the world, will not easily go away and in fact, many lives could have been ruined or greatly diminished by the Scruggs’ actions,” he wrote.
Oxford attorney David B. Howorth asked Biggers to give all involved the severest sentence possible, and former Oxford Police Officer Andy Waller pointed out these men did not commit a crime because of drugs or money troubles.
“All of these defendants wound up where they are because of a continuous pattern of greed, cutting deals, planning and influence,” he wrote.