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Scruggs wants conviction tossed, refund of fines

JACKSON — Prosecutors have been given 30 days to respond to efforts by Zach Scruggs to vacate his conviction and sentence in a Mississippi judicial bribery scheme that toppled his attorney father and other prominent attorneys and officials.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. filed the order late last week.

Zach Scruggs — son and former law partner of disgraced former litigator Richard “Dickie” Scruggs — was released from a halfway house in Aug. 2009 after serving a 14-month sentence and lives in Oxford. He also asked the court to throw out the terms of his supervised release and refund the $250,000 in fines or fees he paid.

Scruggs claims a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision shows he didn’t violate the “honest services” fraud law.

He also contended there are sworn statements from two people reversing earlier testimony that implicated him in another criminal case, and he accused his former defense attorney of working against him.

Zach Scruggs pleaded guilty in March 2008 to misprision of a felony — having knowledge of an attempted bribery scheme and not reporting it. In the latest motion, Zach Scruggs said he had no knowledge of the bribery scheme.

He had admitted knowing about a conversation another attorney had with Judge Henry Lackey in a lawsuit over $26 million in legal fees. Prosecutors had said attorneys offered to pay Lackey $40,000 for a favorable ruling.

Zach Scruggs’ attorneys said in the court documents that the honest service fraud statute has now been severely limited by the U.S. Supreme Court “to include only bribery and kickback schemes and no other failures to act.”

That decision came this past June in a case involving former Enron CEO Jeffery Skilling. Justices found that Skilling’s misconduct in the securities fraud case entailed no bribe or kickback so he didn’t conspire to commit honest services fraud.

Several attorneys pleaded guilty in the judicial bribery case, including Dickie Scruggs; New Albany attorney Timothy Balducci, who had the conversation with the judge and delivered the cash to him; and former State Auditor Steve Patterson.

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