March 17 remains the last day for plea bargains in USA v. Scruggs, and if the defense motions that will be heard at today’s hearing don’t succeed, I wonder if we’ll start seeing some movement.
Here are the pleadings filed yesterday:
Here is the government’s opposition to Sid Backstrom’s and Zach Scruggs’ motions for severance. This brief makes the point that statements in a November 13, 2007 recorded phone conversation between Balducci and Backstrom were taken out of context to make it sound like Backstrom had no clue about the Lackey bribe. Judge for yourself. Here is the Backstrom motion to sever, read paragraphs 18 and 19. And here is the full transcript of the call between Balducci and Backstrom, attached as an exhibit to the government response.
Here is the government’s response to the defendant’s motion for a change of venue. I was shocked while reading this brief to learn of a type of crime I had never heard of before — using guard bears to kill people:
. . . involved a widely publicized conspiracy to import marijuana and the grizzly murders of two innocent people who stumbled upon the marijuana conspiracy being placed into effect.
That’s inhumane! Besides training them to kill, I bet they were forcing the grizzlies to smoke dope too. Grisly, of course, is what is intended. Mistakes happen, I make them all the time myself (had a typo in this sentence, in fact, before I fixed it). This one, however, strikes me as funny whenever I see it.
I found this passage interesting:
If the affidavits supporting the Balducci and Patterson wiretaps along with the affidavit supporting the search warrant for the Scruggs Law Firm were revised to include the omitted information described in the defendants’ motion, the affidavits would describe conversations for the most part between Tim Balducci and Judge Henry Lackey. The defendants’ descriptions of these conversations, however, is not accurate. To begin, the defendants describe Lackey’s requests as “demands” and that Balducci “relented” to such. Putting the hyperbole aside, Judge Lackey asked only once whether Scruggs would help him if he helped Scruggs, to which Balducci replied immediately: “I think, no question that would happen. Yes sir. No question.” Judge Lackey then told Balducci to “talk to your man and, just, you know, whatever you need to do holler back at me.” Far from “demanding” payment, Judge Lackey went on to tell Tim just to “think about it and get back with him.” Two days later Balducci contacted Judge Lackey and told him he would like to meet with him in Calhoun City to determine how much “help” Judge Lackey needed. At that meeting the Judge suggested $40,000 and Balducci agreed, stating such a payment would be “no problem.” Lackey also told Balducci he could bring the order that Scruggs wanted signed. Immediately following the meeting at which Balducci agreed to pay a $40,000 bribe, Judge Lackey contacted the FBI. It was 10:08 A.M. Also, at 10:08 that morning a telephone call was placed from Balducci’s cell phone to The Scruggs Law Firm. In other words, it was perfectly clear that Balducci contacted someone with the Scruggs Law Firm immediately following his meeting with Judge Lackey. All of this information was included in the affidavit in support of the wiretap placed on Balducci’s cell phone signed on September 25th.
Overall, I was taken by how easily the government seemed to swat down the defense arguments — the brief is only 10 pages.
Here is the government’s response to the motion to dismiss for outrageous government. It’s got a great timeline of events in it. The exhibits are something you’ll want to see. Here is Part I of the transcript of the November 1, 2007 recording after Balducci was busted and the feds sent him back to the Scruggs Law Firm to bag the rest. Check out page 37 for a description of Jim Hood as a Pez dispenser for multimillion dollar cases.
Here is Part II. Check out page 49 for Balducci being upset with Hood for favoring Joey Langston and not wanting to dance with the one who brought him. Also, check out starting on page 50 where Backstrom and Balducci discuss Dickie Scruggs’ role in the bribery scheme. Start reading on page 67 for discussions directly between Scruggs and Balducci — interesting bit on page 75 where Scruggs is making suggestions how the judge can edit the order, including punctuation — plus a lot more. Doesn’t look good for Scruggs. From the looks of things in that transcript, it wasn’t too dumb for Dickie.
The evidence would show that when Circuit Judge Henry Lackey tested the defendants’ intent by setting a figure, $40,000, Balducci’s immediate response was that he did not believe that would be a problem. He did not believe that would be a problem because he had been involved the year before in representing Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs and The Scruggs Law Firm in the case of Wilson v. Scruggs, in the circuit court of Hinds County, Mississippi. Richard F. Scruggs and The Scruggs Law Firm had been willing on that occasion to spend money to hire Ed Peters for the purpose of corruptly influencing Peters’ close and trusting friend, State Circuit Judge Bobby Delaughter. Richard F. Scruggs and The Scruggs Law Firm had also caused the possibility of a federal judgeship to be communicated to Judge Delaughter in a further effort to corruptly influence the judicial process, or in the defendants’ parlance, to ensure that they would get a “fair” trial.
. . . .
The facts in the case at bar and the facts in the Wilson case are strikingly similar. In both cases, Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs and The Scruggs Law Firm used others as intermediaries in their bribery attempts. Balducci, Langston and Patterson paid Ed Peters to corruptly influence Judge Delaughter, a trusted long-time friend. Dickie Scruggs caused Langston to communicate through others that Delaughter would be considered for a federal district court judgeship, in order to further corruptly influence the outcome of Wilson v. Scruggs, in his favor. In the Lackey case, Scruggs and The Scruggs Law Firm used Balducci to unethically and corruptly influence his long-term, trusted friend, Henry Lackey. As in Wilson, it was for the stated purpose of just getting a “fair” trial. Unable to get it for free, the defendants did not hesitate to pay $50,000 to corruptly influence Judge Lackey, while speaking in lofty terms about it being the “proper” thing to do. In both cases the litigation involved millions of dollars that were at stake in contested attorneys’ fees, and, ironically, in both cases there may have been reason to believe The Scruggs Law Firm would likely prevail, even without the bribes, but they were willing to have judges corruptly influenced to ensure they had an edge. The corrupt overtures in both cases occurred within a one year period, and both were designed ultimately to ensure success by impugning the integrity of the judicial process.
Finally, somehow Zach Scruggs’ lawyers were able to get a reply brief filed yesterday on the issue of severing his trial.
I’m no expert on criminal law — I leave that to the writers of Boston Legal. But the government materials here look hard to refute.