Let’s take another look at yesterday’s defense motion in USA v. Scruggs in northern Mississippi, the case of alleged bribery, not to be confused with USA v. Scruggs in northern Alabama, the criminal contempt of court case.
In the Alabama case, by the way, the docket shows a February 28 hearing on all pending motions has been scheduled before the new judge, C. Roger Vinson.
Back to the bribery case. (Click here to read yesterday’s motion). A few things the motion reveals:
- Through discovery, the government has a provided the defense with a 90-minute "consensual recording." We know this does not consist of the meetings of Tim Balducci at Judge Lackey’s office, because the motion later says none of the Lackey audio or visual recordings have yet been turned over. A consensual recording is just what it sounds like — one of the people involved consented to the recording being made. The motion says "four defendants" can be heard on the recording. Whether the four includes Balducci, or means the Scruggses, Backstrom and Patterson, I don’t know.
- The government also turned over a cassette with a consensual recording. No other information about this.
- The government provided a CD with 124 recorded telephone conversations. Even considering this investigation went on for months, that is a surprisingly high number to me.
- The government has not provided evidence seized in the November 27 raid on Scruggs’ office, evidence seized in the December 10 raid of Joey Langston’s office, any telephone records, any photographs or other physical evidence, any exculpatory evidence or, as mentioned, the Lackey recordings.
- A government "taint team" is working on electronic records seized from the Scruggs and Langston law offices. What is a taint team? This excellent link tells you: a team not otherwise part of the investigation who reviews electronic records, some of which will not be connected to the alleged crime, to protect the government against suppression hearings based on the premise investigators reviewed records they had no right to see.
- The Scruggs defense team is planning suppression hearings based on the warrant for the November 27 search, the application for and extension of the wiretaps, and to dismiss some or all the counts of the indictment.
Just to return for a moment to the indictment itself (click here to see it), I’ve been mulling the allegations over, and I can’t decide about the alleged events of November 1. On that day, Balducci supposedly delivered the last $10,000 of the agreed upon $40,000 to Judge Lackey, and allegedly Dickie Scruggs had already given Balducci a $40,000 to cover this. On that same day, Balducci allegedly had the conversation with Zach Scruggs and Balducci where he said "we paid for this ruling, let’s be sure it says what we want it to say." And also on November 1, Balducci allegedly had a conversation with Dickie Scruggs where Scruggs agreed to pay an extra $10,000 to Lackey. These last two items tend to support a theory that Balducci was already cooperating with the government at this point — the statement to Zach Scruggs and Backstrom smacks of one made to obtain their reactions on tape, and there is no reason to ask for a fake extra $10,000 payment from Dickie Scruggs unless to further implicate him and get documentary and audio recording evidence against him. However, if Balducci was cooperating, why deliver the last of the $40,000 to Lackey? What would be the purpose of delivering alleged bribes when both the bribee and the briber knew the transaction was fake? Maybe readers can supply the answer.
Lastly, thanks for all the continued shout outs from across the Web: Overlawyered, Y’all Politics (which has become a veritable Scruggs Central), the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (I notice they have a noun definition of "scruggs" that may or may not be compatible with my definition of the verb "to scruggs"), folo and many more than I can keep track of. And thanks for all the continued e-mails from readers: tips, observations, documents. Very valuable, very helpful as we search for answers together. As always, you know where to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org.