Daddy, What’s Mississippi Like?

You can say it was a bombshell when State Farm’s attorney began the following line of questions with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood:

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Q. Mr. Hood, before Scruggs settled with State Farm … the case with 640 plaintiffs, which generated a fee in excess of $20 million for Mr. Scruggs and his partners, did they dispatch Mr. Balducci and Mr. Patterson to have dinner with you in a restaurant in Jackson to talk about that?”

[Balducci and Patterson are, or were, friends of Scruggs. The two have each pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with criminal cases against Scruggs]

A. I don’t know.

Hood’s counsel, Lawson Hester, objected on relevance grounds, but Judge Bramlette overruled and allowed State Farm’s attorney to press on.

Q. I’m asking you whether or not Mr. Scruggs sent Mr. Balducci and Mr. Patterson to have dinner with you here at a restaurant in Jackson to talk about settlement of that case.

A. I don’t know what Mr. Scruggs did with Balducci and Patterson.

Q. Did you have dinner with Mr. Balducci or Mr. Patterson at Crechale’s restaurant where they discussed Scruggs’ desire to settle that case?

A. No, sir. I haven’t been to Crechale’s in a long time.

Q. You did not have dinner with them where they discussed –

A. When are you talking about? And you said “Crechale’s.” I haven’t been to Crechale’s so I know I didn’t have dinner with anybody at Crechale’s.

Q. My real question is: Did Mr. Patterson or Mr. Balducci have dinner with you and tell you that if you did not participate or assist Mr. Scruggs in settling that mass tort action which was going to generate a 20-million-dollar-plus fee, that he would fund an alternative candidate to run against you for attorney general?

A. If you’re asking me did somebody come to me and threaten me, the answer is no. Now, out of all candor in this, I don’t want to mislead you. I remember having dinner on one occasion with Mr. Balducci and Mr. Patterson, but that conversation was about they were leaving the firm that they were presently — that Mr. Balducci was presently with. They didn’t convey any threats to me about settling the case or anything like that.

Time with Shelby
2/9/8