With apologies to Shakespeare, one of the consistent themes I have had through this whole mess is context. When viewed in an isolated fashion, a lot of the things that the Dickie Scruggs team has done both before and after charges were filed make sense. However, when strung together and placed in context, they paint a very clear picture about what has happened.
Let’s look at the current legal entanglements and review the individual and collective legal strategies.
State Farm v. Hood
What is readily apparent is that for whatever reason, Scruggs did not want to testify in this case. His lawyers didn’t want him too, either making their arguments via a rather snarky email exchange with State Farm counsel. After being ordered by a federal judge in the Southern District to stand for deposition, Scruggs filed an alias proceeding in the Northern District. His lawyers told everyone that he would invoke his 5th amendment privileges and used that as a basis to attempt to resist the deposition. After a hearing, another judge ordered him to stand for deposition.
Then Scruggs doesn’t show because his lawyers would not agree on a time, and had to be compelled by an Emergency Order to testify or otherwise face contempt charges.
Now let’s look at Scruggs’ pretrial strategy in Alabama. David Rossmiller has an excellent post about this today.
First, Team Scruggs wants to get Judge William Acker off of Renfroe v. Rigsby. Acker refuses to recuse himself there.
Then Team Scruggs goes after the special prosecutors, Charles Sharp, Michael Rasmussen and Joel Williams, assigned by Acker to prosecute the contempt case regarding stolen documents not being returned to the Court as ordered. In his motion, Scruggs attorneys claim their appointment is unconstitutional and request an evidentiary hearing. Apparently, special prosecutors don’t like being referred to as “private counsel” as Scruggs did in their motion.
Currently that contempt case is being prepared for trial under Federal District Judge Robert Vinson. Scruggs lead attorney John Keker is quoted as saying “We just want to get out of here and go deal with the problems in Mississippi”.
US vs. Scruggs
So let’s look at the “problems in Mississippi”.
First, let’s remember the downright odd saga of Scruggs insisting on Ken Coughlan to represent him, after he had already entered an appearance for Steve Patterson. He moved to change venue. He also moved to dismiss (of course) due to “outrageous government conduct”.
The two largest procedural fights will be the desire of the government to introduce “prior acts”. Scruggs apparently does not want his past examined at all in the context of his criminal trial, thus filing a motion to exclude such testimony. However, the biggest issue is the wiretaps. Remember, the government had wiretaps in place for months on Scruggs law office and Balducci, and an enormous amount of intelligence came to them as a result. If Scruggs can somehow get the wiretaps tossed on a procedural error (which is largely viewed as their only hope of getting them tossed), it changes the equation substantially for Scruggs. Scruggs moved to have them supressed, and it will be up to Judge Biggers to rule on all of these after a hearing on February 20.
The bottom line
Any of these motions make sense to pursue if you are looking at them on an isolated basis. But look at the totality of the legal gymnastics Scruggs is placing himself and everyone else through. At some point, he’s gonna have to face the music and make an argument or plea these things out.
To grant all of these important motions, Scruggs is asking us all to believe that (1) Judge Acker’s special prosecutors are on the take (2) that Balducci, Patterson, and Langston are all bald-face lying (in perfect harmony) (3) that the FBI is out to get him (the brother-in-law of one of the most powerful Senators in Washington) with fake wiretaps (4) and finally that Judge Henry Lackey, a septugenarian highly respected member of the bar had nothing better to do than attempt to pick a fight and entrap one of the richest and most powerful lawyers in state history in an elaborate bribery scheme only to be pursued by a wild pack of $1000/hour lawyers and PR attack experts.
The odds of just one of those things being true is pretty remote. The odds of all of those things? Well, you can’t exactly rule out anything in the Scruggs Nation, but I would rank them about as low as Eli Manning having to wait on a table at City Grocery in Oxford . . . on a Tuesday . . . in the summer . . . while it’s raining.