Judge "Maximum Neal" Biggers sentenced Dickie Scruggs to five years in prison, the most Scruggs could receive under his plea agreement. According to this story in the Sun Herald, Scruggs finally came forward with an apology:
Before sentencing, Scruggs told the judge, "I could not be more ashamed to be where I am today. I realized I was getting mixed up in it and I will go to my grave wondering why. I have disappointed everyone in my life – my wife, family and friends here to support me today. I deeply regret my conduct. It is a scar and a stain on my soul."
Scruggs had asked for a sentence of only 30 months, but Biggers, solidifying his reputation as someone who is not to be messed with, called Scruggs out and knocked him around pretty good, as the story says:
He said, "There is no question in the court’s mind that Mr. Scruggs, Mr. Richard Scruggs, was a leader and a planner (in the conspiracy). He has said he came into the scheme late. Regardless, he was the leader, he was the money man."
In fact, Biggers said Scruggs had entered into the scheme so easily that it made him wonder whether Scruggs had done such a thing before and indeed evidence indicates that he may have.
Biggers found that at least five people, including Scruggs’ son Zach, participated in the conspiracy. He said Scruggs will have a chance to study a copy of the pre-sentencing report while he is in prison. He said one of the conspiracy participants, Timothy Balducci, "said you know where a lot of bodies are buried. It might do you some good to uncover some of those bodies."
That second paragraph, and the end of the third, are key. At a time like this, where someone is facing the music, it’s always tempting to say enough is enough, let’s just forget about it and move on. But what about all those buried bodies? And what about what Maximum Neal Biggers said — doesn’t it appear from the casual way Scruggs participated in this bribery scheme, with as little moral struggle as if he was taking a drive to the grocery store, that it was a part of his existing psychological montage?
Legal Newsline also has a good story on the Scruggs sentencing. Check out this excerpt:
Biggers said he was "personally shocked" when he first heard of the case, a shock that was sustained when he first saw the Government’s evidence.
The harshness of the sentence — which includes a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and the price of his incarceration — can be traced to Scruggs’ motives. Biggers said there is a difference between a criminal stealing out of necessity and what Scruggs did.
A 2003 audit of Scruggs in an asbestos fees dispute showed a net worth of approximately $200 million.
"The justice system has made you a rich man," Biggers said.
Hey, let’s be fair here! The justice system gave a lot to Scruggs, so maybe he just decided it was time to give some back! In $40,000 increments, apparently.
I’ll be out of the office until Tuesday, but Marjory Morford will post updates as appropriate.
UPDATE: Sid Backstrom gets less time. Judge Biggers sentences him to two years and four months in prison and fined $250,000. He is to report on August 1 also. According to the Sun Herald:
Biggers said he was impressed that Backstrom seemed remorseful about his role in the case. He was ordered to report to prison on Aug. 4.
"I cannot say that I have seen that kind of remorse from your co-defendants," the judge said.
Zach Scruggs will be sentenced on July 2.