Just because I consider the Scruggs case (unfortunately) unfinished business, I am making a special post here.
Tom Freeland at NMC has been all over the Dickie Scruggs cry for freedom and the release of previously unreleased documents. He’s done a good job, but I’d like to look at it a different way. I’ll also be interested to see if ZNN or Jerry Mitchell take this on. Mitchell is very close to DeLaughter and this is really the final nail in the coffin on DeLaughter’s reputation. This absolutely confirms that DeLaughter was one of the bad guys.
YallPolitics is putting the most recently released documents and some commentary on each. This is long and will ramble, but there is some very interesting new stuff.
The Ed Peters testimony was pretty enlightening. Among the nuggets gleaned . . .
Peters testified he contemplated suicide as a result of the scandal.
He absolutely confirmed that DeLaughter knew what the deal was. Peters knew that DeLaughter knew he was doing wrong. Since Peters didn’t have email, DeLaughter was emailing the draft opinions to Peters’ wife.
He interestingly claimed that Langston, Patterson and Balducci “shoved” $50K in cash at him and that there would be no “1099” and that it kind of spooked him. Langston seemed to say in his grand jury testimony that cash was Patterson’s idea and that Balducci was the one who volunteered to pay Peters in cash.
Peters confirmed in fact that DeLaughter “couldn’t say no” to Peters.
Ed Peters’ Grand Jury Testimony Against Dickie Scruggs and Bobby DeLaughter
Joey Langston’s testimony featured Langston’s assessment that he believed Zach Scruggs absolutely knew that Peters had been hired in the Wilson case although Langston had not ever told Zach.
Langston fully expected Ed Peters to have ex parte communication with DeLaughter. That was why he was hired. Langston further informed Dickie Scruggs directly of the hiring of DeLaughter and the $50K payment to him.
In talking about the involvement of the Trent Lott call to DeLaughter, Langston testified that DeLaughter absolutely believed that Peters/Scruggs support in calling Trent Lott had real value to DeLaughter.
Langston finally winds up with his reckoning in front of the grand jury that mirrored my interview with him in prison. He said “It doesn’t matter if I was trying to influence him (DeLaughter) to follow the law. I was doing it wrong, the wrong way. And that’s corrupt. . . . And I’m sorry for that.”
On a personal note, I have some hope for both Langston and Balducci. Everyone else in the saga seems pretty irretrievably corrupt or narcissistic and I don’t think they’ll ever change, but Langston and Balducci seem to have actual remorse and hopefully it will affect their behavior going forward.
Joey Langston Grand Jury Testimony Against Dickie Scruggs and Bobby DeLaughter
Trent Lott was called to testify in front of the MS Judicial Performance Board against “A Judge” (DeLaughter). Nowhere will you get a better glimpse of how he and Cochran worked together to appoint judges.
Lott winds up (as we said in Kings of Tort) as the patsy. By the way, that doesn’t mean Lott gets a pass. He exercised indescribably bad judgement calling the Rigsby gals and the engineer on the State Farm case. However, relative to DeLaughter, Dickie Scruggs used him. Lott’s recollection of his call to DeLaughter as a “courtesy” doesn’t jive with how DeLaughter took it as evidenced by his letter to Scruggs and DeLaughter’s call to Peters about how excited he was about the call. Lott may well have underplayed the level of interest he let DeLaughter have, but ultimately it appears that Lott had no knowledge of Dickie Scruggs’ case in front of DeLaughter.
Another nugget from Lott’s testimony is that he doesn’t read the Clarion Ledger because he generally tries “not to get sick at his stomach”.
Fmr. Sen. Trent Lott Testimony to MS Judicial Performance Commission against Bobby DeLaughter and Dickie Sc…
Steve Patterson’s testimony also provided some connective tissue to the narrative. Interestingly, during the Wilson vs. Scruggs matter, the “Scruggs” team was headquartered at the Old Capitol Inn. Patterson also testified that Jackson City Councilman Frank Bluntson assisted on jury consulting.
Patterson also testified that he thought the calls from Scruggs to Lott and then Lott to Peters was “risky” and “stupid”. Interestingly on page 58 of Patterson’s testimony, he said that the call turned out to be used more as leverage against DeLaughter. “’It’ being the political strategy of, that hey, this is – this is Trent Lott’s brother in law, this is a sensitive thing. You ought to either recuse yourself from the case, or you’ve got to be real careful in the – in the event that you do want to – in the event that you do want to solicit Trent’s support, you know, you can’t make bad rulings that negatively impact his brother-in-law.”
Finally, once Patterson was indicted, he reached out to Peters, not to engage him, but to have him look at the indictment as a “friend” and “old prosecutor”. Peters never did.
Steve Patterson testimony in Eaton vs. Frisby
With all of that in mind, read the Scruggs memorandum on this deal. It’s pretty much the same recycled trash out of the Paul Minor camp (no quid pro quo and that the judge ultimately made the “right” decision in Wilson). They also (amazingly) asserted Dickie’s first amendment right and duty as a member of the bar to reach out to Lott on DeLaughter’s behalf.
Team Scruggs also asserts that because Dickie didn’t plead to “bribery” that it never happened. The corollary is that if someone robbed a bank and then stole the getaway car and then pleaded the entire incident down to just auto theft for judicial expedience and then claiming the bank robbery never actually happened because they didn’t plea to the robbery. It is this “through the looking glass” universe that Team Scruggs occupies (just like Minor) and I think Scruggs fate will continue to be the same as Minor.
Team Scruggs also justifies Peters’ ex parte communication because the other side was doing it.
Simply put, there is no credible evidence from anyone that there was a quidpro quo bribe. The Government appears not to have considered that ex parte contacts were a part of this case on both sides,that other lawyers who frequently appeared before Judge Delaughter also recommended that Senator Lott favorably consider Judge Delaughter/ and that Judge Delaughter knew that Senator Lott had given him nothing at all when he called him.
All of these facts and law aside, there is the First Amendment claim asserted by Petitioner. Recommending a person for consideration for a federal judicial appointment is patently speech protected by the First Amendment. The American Bar Association encourages judicial endorsements by lawyers.
“Lawyers are better able than laymen to appraise accurately the qualifications of candidates for judicial office. It is proper that they should make that appraisal known to the voters in a proper and dignified manner. A lawyer may with propriety endorse a candidate for judicial office and seek like endorsement from other lawyers.”
Moreover, Mississippi’s rules for judicial officers specifically contemplate that an attorney may support a judicial officer’s campaign for higher office, even when the attorney has a case pending before that judge, unless the lawyer is a “major donor,” that is, a person who has given more than $1,000 to the campaign of any lower court judicial candidate. See, Miss. Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 3(E)(2). These state codes provide the rule and the remedy for judicial misconduct, and the Government’s efforts to overlay a facially vague federal statute to selectively prosecute one person for recommending a candidate for public office offends the First Amendment, a principle the United States Supreme Court has forcefully reaffirmed in recent months.4 The Government appears to have no answer for this trenchant problem, unable to mount a single argument or authority addressing Petitioner’s First Amendment claim.
Stay tuned. As I’ve said a dozen times before, the more Team Scruggs fights, the more we find out (or at least have our suspicions confirmed). They’ll continue to fight because (again) they are who we thought they were.