Wait and See For Former Lawyer Dick ScruggsBy Sandra Knispel | Published 28 Mar 2012 08:38am |
Incarcerated former Mississippi trial lawyer Dick Scruggs is hoping a federal judge in Oxford will soon set him free. As MPB’s Sandra Knispel reports, the hearing on overturning his guilty plea in the second judicial bribery case ended yesterday afternoon.
A decision has not yet been made. Both sides now have two weeks to file their written briefs in lieu of closing statements in court yesterday afternoon. At stake is the question of whether a precedent Supreme Court ruling in Skilling v. United States applies to the second Scruggs bribery case, involving former Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter. U.S. Assistant Attorney Bob Norman does not think so.
“It’s our position, and the judge will have to decide, that by corrupting Bobby DeLaughter through Ed Peters and at the same time dangling at least the hope of a federal judgeship in front of Bobby DeLaughter that the Scruggs legal team bribed Bobby DeLaughter with a thing of value.”
“Value” is the watchword. The entire case and with that the decision over either freedom or continued incarceration for Mr. Scruggs turns on the interpretation of this word. That’s because the Skilling case narrowed the definition of bribery to mean corrupting an official in exchange for something valuable.
“I guess, the question is whether being considered for a position on the federal bench by a sitting U.S. senator is of value."
Tom Freeland is an Oxford lawyer who’s been blogging about the judicial bribery scandal starting with Scruggs’s first indictment back in 2007.
"I’m inclined to think that a federal judge will say it’s of value,” Freeland added.
The Scruggs defense team declined to speak to reporters but insisted in court that no bribe had been paid to DeLaughter. Again and again his lawyers pointed out that all of DeLaughter’s rulings had been legally sound.
The final decision by Senior U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson may take several weeks, first the briefs have to be in. Most legal experts agree that if Scruggs’s conviction is not overturned here he’ll appeal to the next circuit.
Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.
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