OXFORD — Imprisoned former attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs has asked a federal court to throw out his conviction in the judicial corruption case involving former Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
Scruggs’ legal argument in the motion, filed in U.S. District Court in North Mississippi, is that the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of so-called honest services laws, and he says that means he’s innocent of a crime to which he pleaded guilty.
The law says it’s a crime for a public official to deprive citizens of honest services while in office or to be involved in such a crime. The Supreme Court found problems with the law in the conviction of former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling. The Supreme Court ruled June 24, 2010, that prosecutors can use the law only in cases where evidence shows the defendant accepted bribes or kickbacks.
Scruggs, 65, was serving five years for conspiring to bribe another judge when he pleaded guilty to honest services fraud in the DeLaughter case in 2009. The plea deal added two years to Scruggs’ sentence.
Scruggs was charged with enticing DeLaughter to rule in his favor in a civil lawsuit by saying Scruggs’ brother-in-law, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, would help DeLaughter get a federal judgeship.
Scruggs now says he offered DeLaughter nothing of value and only endorsed DeLaughter’s candidacy for a judgeship. Federal judges are appointed. Senators make recommendations.
Scruggs’ son, Zach Scruggs, has made a similar argument about the Skilling case in hopes of getting his conviction overturned in another corruption case. That case involved $40,000 in cash paid to Lafeyette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey for a favorable ruling in a lawsuit over legal fees from Hurricane Katrina litigation.
Zach Scruggs pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony for allegedly knowing about a crime. Zach Scruggs says he only knew of an attempt to influence the judge, or earwig him, not bribery, and his conviction should be thrown out.
DeLaughter, 57, was sentenced to 18 months in November 2009 after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI in the Scruggs case. He has been released.