As I’ve said, work is the curse of the blogging class. Day job demands come first, so I had difficulty grabbing some blogging time until late April 16/early April 17, when I wrote this post. A couple must-blog-about things follow.
Trailer Lawyer News
Terry Ganey of the Columbia (Missouri) Tribune has a Trailer Lawyer story, which appears to include fresh quotes from an interview with Todd Graves and Tony DeWitt. As you may remember, there was some uncertainty over whether the "Todd" in the trailer with the Rigsby sisters — they couldn’t remember the last name during their depositions — was in fact Todd Graves, a now former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
This story, though, still leaves some uncertainty — but from the quote attributed to Graves, it appears to me one inference is that he acknowledges he was in the trailer (or if that is too pejorative, "mobile home," if you prefer).
(Bracketed material in the excerpt that follows was inserted by me to give context):
Graves and Anthony DeWitt, an associate in [Chip] Robertson’s law firm [Robertson also apparently is one of the Trailer Lawyers], said they would be filing a substantial, formal answer to State Farm’s motion [to disqualify the Trailer Lawyers], which both said was inaccurate.
"I’ve never been around a computer that was on a State Farm database," Graves said. "The allegation is ridiculous. They don’t have a basis for it."
DeWitt said the law firms’ answer would be filed by Friday, unless the court granted an extension.
"The facts that are in the motion are all wrong," DeWitt added. "We never went onto their computer system. We never did the things we are alleged to have done. We have not violated any of the rules of professional conduct in Missouri or Mississippi."
I don’t know, the quote could still make sense if he is denying being the Todd in the trailer at all, but wouldn’t he have said that? I mean, wouldn’t the quote be: "I never was in that trailer, er, mobile home, with those women, the Rigsbys, and so I couldn’t possibly have looked at any computer while they were hacking State Farm’s system or whatever it is they supposedly did. Good Grief, it’s hot in here, who turned on the furnace? Waiter, check please!!" Question: can someone make me some bumper stickers that say "Who Is Trailer Todd?" I’ll hand them out as prizes to people who renew a two-year subscription to my blog. Who is Trailer Todd — inquiring minds want to know.
Let’s step back just a bit to recall that Graves and Robertson, besides representing the Rigsbys in the False Claims Act case State Farm is trying to get them kicked off of, were brought in late in the game to represent Zach Scruggs, right along with Mike Moore, just before the younger Scruggs pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony in the Scruggs judicial bribery case – bad timing, no doubt. I should note this lawsuit is sometimes referred to, mostly by me, as Ex rel. Rigsby, which is its name and which I like because it sounds like a great name for a race horse — "Trailer Lawyer leads Scruggs Guilty Plea by a neck down the stretch, but here comes Ex rel. Rigsby gaining on the outside!" Among those very familiar with the case, it is simply known as "the Qui Tam," a legal name for this type of lawsuit which I hate because it sounds like some kooky product sold on an all-night shopping network — "the Qui Tam slices, dices, juices, peels, purees, grates, fries, bakes and broils, it refrigerates, freezes, toasts and cleans the dishes — you can throw out every other appliance in your kitchen!" All right, now we can step forward again.
Now here is an excellent post at a site called Fired Up! Missouri about the Tribune story and about the whole Trailer Lawyer bit (thanks for the shout out at the end of the post). Here’s a fun part of the post, making a point I’ve considered here:
Relying upon that testimony, State Farm’s pleading then immediately makes an earth-shattering statement:
83. On information and belief, the “Todd” about whom Kerri Rigsby testified in the preceding paragraph is either Todd Graves or Todd A. Scott.
Why is the prospect that Todd Graves was at that first trailer meeting so potentially explosive?
Because on the date of the meeting, Graves was still in his post as United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. The meeting took place on March 11, 2006, just one day after Todd Graves announced that he would resign his post on March 24, 2006 –some two weeks later.
If indeed Todd Graves was present at the March 11, 2006 trailer meeting, he was not only present while the Rigsby sisters and other attorneys gained illicit access to State Farm files in preparation for litigation, but also present while still carrying a badge and wearing a title of law enforcement prestige from the Department of Justice. He would have been there while still an employee of the taxpayers of the United States.
Now, I don’t know who Todd A. Scott is and I didn’t go back to read the State Farm pleading to see if that was explained. I’m not saying Trailer Todd was either Todd Graves or Todd A. Scott — it might have been Sweeney Todd for all I know. But here’s the really good analysis from the Fired Up post:
Note that Graves and DeWitt couch their denials very carefully. Both go to lengths to refute specifically the claim that they accessed State Farm’s computer files, though nothing provided by Ganey indicates that either man denies having been present at the March 11, 2006 trailer meeting.
Immediate clarity is necessary on whether Todd Graves claims to have been present at or absent from the March 11, 2006 meeting. If Ganey explored this topic with Graves and did receive answers and simply chose not to publish them in this piece, I would hope he would make those responses available. If Ganey did not, perhaps some other reporter will put that query to the former U.S. Attorney.
If Graves was at the March 11, 2006 trailer meeting, an immediate accounting must be given to the people of Missouri, and of the United States, for why a sitting U.S. Attorney was in another state, effectively engaging the private practice of law before leaving office. And then the appropriate punishments should be assigned.
One can also say, based on the Ganey story, that neither man denies having seen the State Farm documents on the Rigsby laptop either, only that they deny having looked at the documents as the Rigsbys accessed them on the State Farm server. Considering the flexibility of the English language, that still leaves plenty of room for looking at the docs right after they were downloaded, or later, or some such.
Alan Lange at Y’all Politics — one of the great blog names, by the way, much more creative than mine — noted this same thing in regard to a footnoted disclaimer in a recent filing by the plaintiffs in the Qui Tam, I mean, in Ex rel. Rigsby ("by a nose at the wire!"). The footnote got him fairly perturbed, which you can see from reading his post.
Well, it’s late as I write and this is starting to confuse me. We’ll await further developments on this Trailer/Mobile Home Lawyer story, add a piece here and a piece there, and see what the truth turns out to be. As the saying goes, the truth will set you free. Or put you in jail. Or get you disqualified. Or whatever. The funny thing about the truth, though, is you never see anyone wearing a T-shirt that says "Truth Happens." Seems like you really have to dig to make it happen. Everyone got their shovels?
I heard about this Moore post at folo by NMC earlier in the evening and didn’t have a chance to get to it for four hours, but it was worth waiting for. I mean, this deserves a Holy Cow!
You remember yesterday? Of course you remember yesterday, although it’s been a long day and I’m not sure I do. What I mean is, you remember yesterday where I asked a bunch of questions about that story where Mike Moore said he got a text message from Lon Stallings debunking Judge Lackey’s testimony in the Jones v. Scruggs hearing? (Look at the end of the post).
This is the testimony where Lackey said he didn’t go to AG Jim Hood with concerns over Balducci’s earwigging overtures because he heard from Stallings that Scruggs, through Moore, had pressured Hood to drop his criminal investigation of State Farm because the insurer was demanding it as a condition of settling 640 cases, the settlement of which resulted in beaucoup coin to the Scruggs Katrina Group — $26.5 million in attorney fees to be exact (which they immediately began squabbling about with Jones, at that time a member of the SKG, which led to the Jones v. Scruggs fee dispute, which led to the Balducci earwigging, which led to sweet potato time, which led to jail time).
OK, the relevant point of that portion of my post from yesterday is that Moore said Lackey either made it up or lost his marbles. Here’s the part of the Daily Journal story I excerpted:
"Judge Lackey either is very confused or he made up the story out of whole cloth," Moore said.
"Jim Hood is a very, very close friend – he worked for me, supported me in my first campaign. I encouraged him to take my place."
Moore, who represents Scruggs’ son Zach on his criminal charges in the Lackey bribery attempt, said he had an investigator interview Stallings and he made no mention of the conversation with Lackey.
"On the contrary, he told Lackey to call the AG’s office," Moore added.
He also showed the Daily Journal a text message he had just received from Stallings, which confirmed the story.
Was Moore surprised to hear Lackey’s accusations from the stand Tuesday morning?
"Sure, I was appalled," he said.
Moore also noted he, as attorney general, had removed Patterson from office as state auditor and prosecuted him.
"I of all people would not have anything to do with Steve Patterson," he noted.
Now, as I noted, some things about this seemed, well, something less than complete. That brings us back to the NMC post. It talks of a story by Alyssa Schnugg of the Oxford Eagle, which wasn’t published yet as I wrote this, where she talked to Stallings and dude said he never text messaged Moore and doesn’t even know how to text message! Whoops. Lesson: if you ID a guy as the man you saw running from the store with a gun and a bag of money after a stick-up, make sure you’re not talking about a guy with no legs.
Apparently, Stallings basically backs Lackey, said he was off on a few details, but that the judge was truthful. Plus, did I mention it? Dude said he never text messaged Moore and doesn’t even know how to text message! What’s Moore got to say about this, I wonder? I mean, besides "Good Grief, it’s hot in here, who turned on the furnace? Waiter, check please!!"
See what I mean? That’s why they don’t sell those "Truth Happens" T-shirts. Lots of unanswered questions. Well, I’ll make you a deal: you keep reading, and I’ll keep asking.
One final question: who was the text message from, the one Moore was showing off? Well, OK, two final questions: and what exactly did it say?
UPDATE: We know the answer to one of these questions: the message wasn’t from Stallings — dude said he never text messaged Moore and doesn’t even know how to text message! — it was from "Moore associate Lee Martin," which I assume means an associate in Moore’s private law offices. What does it mean, though, that Moore said it "confirms his recollection of what his investigator told him about speaking with Stallings and his advice to Lackey."
What have we got here, some kind of sixth-hand information, some "investigator" talked to Stallings about what Lackey and Stallings said? What does it mean, "his investigator," Moore is in private practice now, no longer an AG, what does he do, walk around with a butler, a manicurist, a bodyguard and an investigator? Who has an investigator?
Isn’t this just amazing? Moore’s evidence that he uses to call Lackey out as a liar is some "yes, boss" e-mail. I can picture that e-exchange. Moore: "Didn’t my investigator tell me while I was yelling at the butler that he anticipated Lackey would take the stand and so he asked Stallings what Stallings said to Lackey and Stallings denied what Lackey just said? Isn’t that the way it happened?"
Response: "y-y-yessir, why, yessir, that’s exactly what the truth is, what you just said, sir."
SECOND UPDATE: As a reader pointed out, there is one Lee Martin listed in the Mississippi Bar Roll, with an e-mail address at the Mike Moore Law Firm, but the physical address is listed as Office of the Attorney General. Hmmmm, don’t know what that means. Lots of people get dragged into this stuff, names get splashed all over, it’s too bad, really. I wouldn’t mention it, except it was in the paper.