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Dick Scruggs Hearing to Get Second Conviction Overturned

By Sandra Knispel | Published 26 Mar 2012 10:40pm | comments
Dick Scruggs (center right), his wife, Diane, and son, Zach, walk with his attorney to the courthouse in 2008 where he pleaded guilty in the original judicial bribery scandal. Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle

Former Mississippi attorney Dick Scruggs, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for his involvement in a judiciary bribery scandal, is back in federal court in Oxford. As MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports, this time he’s trying to get his second conviction overturned.

Looking a lot less fragile than at his original sentencing in 2008, Dick Scruggs, in a dark blue suit and without handcuffs inside the courtroom, is trying to get his second conviction set aside. That’s the one for supposedly bribing Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter who prosecutors claim was hoping to be nominated for a federal judgeship.

“He has to prove that he was actually innocent of bribery, that there was no element of a quid-pro-quo in the dealings he had with Ed Peters and Judge DeLaughter.”

Tom Freeland is an Oxford lawyer who has been blogging about the case from the start. At the center of Scruggs’s attempt to get his second conviction overturned is a 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Skilling case that narrows the definition of bribery of an official.

“If Dickie Scruggs can show actual innocence of bribery he can get the benefit of Skilling and get his guilty plea set aside,” Freeland said.

Meanwhile former Senator Trent Lott, in the witness stand on Monday for nearly an hour, vehemently denied that Scruggs, his brother-in-law, and a well-known Democrat, had had any influence over his political decisions. Instead he told the court that his phone call to Judge DeLaughter was merely a courtesy call, saying that, “Because of my absolute knowledge that he was never going to be somebody I would consider, I cannot conceive or recall in any way anything that gave him any reason to think that he might be seriously considered, or even considered by me. He did not fit the bill.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Norman says DeLaughter still believed that he stood a chance, telling the court, "The fix was set, the hook was in. DeLaughter sold his soul in exchange for favorable rulings.”

The most colorful testimony came from former state auditor Steve Patterson who had been a fixer for Scruggs. He told the court that he thought Lott’s placing a call to Delaughter was “a pretty stupid thing to do.” Adding,“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” By that Patterson was referring to the undisputed fact that DeLaughter’s mentor, former Hinds County Prosecutor Ed Peters, was handsomely paid by the Scruggs team for the illegal ex parte access to the judge.

This morning it’s back to court for a second day of witness testimony.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

Images

Dick Scruggs (center right), his wife, Diane, and son, Zach, walk with his attorney to the courthouse in 2008 where he pleaded guilty in the original judicial bribery scandal. Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle


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