Balducci and Patterson met with Hood in late 2006. In January 2007, after presenting information to a Jackson County grand jury, Hood declined to prosecute. Shortly afterward, the Scruggs Katrina Group settled with State Farm.
Hood admitted he met with Balducci and Patterson, but remains firm that their meeting had nothing to do with his decision to drop his criminal pursuit of State Farm. He issued a statement, “The decision on whether to indict State Farm Insurance Company was based solely on the advice of senior prosecutors in our office…the majority of the prosecutors working on this case determined with a high level of certainty that no fact pattern existed that fell squarely within the insurance fraud statute. I made my decision that there was insufficient evidence to uphold a conviction of State Farm…I am too hardheaded to be influenced by outside forces – I do what I think is right for the working people of Mississippi.”
In February 2008, during a civil lawsuit against Hood, a State Farm attorney suggested in his questioning that Patterson and Balducci told Hood that if he didn’t cooperate, Scruggs would fund a candidate against him for Attorney General. Hood replied that such was “absolutely not” the case and “if you’re asking me did somebody come to me and threaten me, the answer is no.”
At a press conference later that month, Hood said of the meeting, “If I knew they were getting paid that much I would have told them to get out of the office because it just didn’t smell right.” When asked about a political threat from Scruggs he said, “I didn’t care who (Scruggs) supported. I wasn’t crazy about being attorney general anyway.’
Balducci, Patterson, and Scruggs appear to have attempted to inappropriately influence Mississippi’s Attorney General. For his sake, and the sake of the state, I hope they failed.