As I wrote in one of my posts yesterday, Judge Biggers’ order of yesterday afternoon made it clear that the deadline for plea agreements remained March 17. Some people have asked me whether this is an absolute deadline — for example, if Zach Scruggs wanted to enter into a plea agreement just before trial, would the judge reject this.
The answer is that I don’t know, this wasn’t covered on any of the episodes of Boston Legal I’ve seen. But having seen a little bit of Judge Biggers in action in this case, I suspect that when he says something he means it. There are a lot of criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors reading who could give a better answer than I can, and maybe one of them will e-mail me or leave a public comment below.
You know by now, of course, that Mike Moore is now formally part of the Zach Scruggs defense team. According to this post on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Zach’s lead attorney, Todd Graves, said Moore has been an unofficial part of the team for some unspecified period of time.
As you also know by now, two other attorneys filed appearances on behalf of Zach yesterday, Edward Robertson, Jr. and Mary Winter. Robertson, according to his bio on his firm’s website, goes by "Chip" and is a former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. I don’t see criminal defense listed as one of the firm’s practice areas, but he certainly knows his way around a courtroom, as this other bio I found on the Web shows.
So apparently there goes my hypothesis that Dickie Scruggs’ chief reason to plead guilty would be as part of a deal for Zach to walk away with minimal or no jail time. Bringing in Moore, Robertson and Winter certainly looks like a move to get ready for trial.
A couple questions: does Dickie Scruggs’ guilty plea mean that he cannot refuse to testify on Fifth Amendment grounds about this conspiracy if called to the stand? Would Scruggs want to testify, perhaps to say that his son had no clue what was going on?
If Zach is indeed going to trial, this seems like a tremendous gamble on his part. Makes me wonder about that report last Friday in the Clarion-Ledger — I never found it myself but I saw it talked about on other blogs like Y’all Politics and folo — that a deal had been worked out with Zach where he would surrender his law license, and that was it. If that was the deal on the table, I wonder if the sticking point was whether Zach would walk on possible charges stemming from the investigation of the Wilson case, the one where Joey Langston has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a judge. Whomever was the source for the information, the paper hasn’t mentioned that deal since, so if it existed, it fell through.