Scruggs Nation, Day 48: center for news updates

I’ll keep this post on top throughout the day and update it with news as I hear of it and have time to post it.

— Joey Langston turned himself in at the U.S. Attorney’s Office this morning, says this breaking story by Patsy Brumfield and Errol Castens in the Daily Journal.

UPDATE: I’ve had a chance to pull all the current entries on the docket in USA v. Langston from PACER, and have reorganized them from the way I originally had them and relisted them below so they are easy to access

Here’s the government Information with the charges against Langston.  

SECOND UPDATE: Langston’s plea agreement

Here is Zach Scruggs’ waiver of conflict letter that states Tony Farese can represent both him and Joey Langston. Again, more later.

Here is a copy of Joey Langston’s waiver of conflict letter (you need one from each client).

Here is Langston’s waiver of indictment

Here is a copy of the minute order of the hearing January 7 where Langston entered his plea agreement before Judge Michael Mills. 

Here is the order setting the conditions of Langston’s release.

Here is Langston’s unsecured bond

Here is the notice of penalties and here is the criminal cover sheet

THIRD UPDATE: As you can see, in the plea agreement Langston pleads guilty to conspiracy to corruptly influence an elected state official, which maximum penalties of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release, but the agreement is that the sentence will not exceed three years. He will not face forfeiture of his share of the $3 million of Scruggs "savings" he split in the Wilson case.  He allegedly split the money with Steve Patterson and "a close personal friend" of the judge who was supposed to influence Judge DeLaughter’s decision in the case, allegedly acting on behalf of Dickie Scruggs. Generous of the feds, don’t you think?  I wonder what this means. Does it mean their analysis is Judge DeLaughter was not actually influenced, despite that being the goal of the conspiracy? I don’t know much about what the government can do as far as confiscating money and holding it in trust, say, while Wilson and his attorneys sue to get it back. They always have the option to sue Langston anyway, among others. 

If the allegations concerning Scruggs and others are true, and if the influence was actually not effective, then these interpretations are possible of the allegations in the charges against Langston: (a) he ripped off Scruggs for a big split that was not deserved; (b) Langston didn’t know the influence was ineffective, thought the conspiracy achieved its goals and that he deserved the split; (c) it didn’t matter to Scruggs whether the money was deserved or not, he got a much bigger windfall than the $3 million that was split among the three alleged co-conspirators, and better safe than sorry, a fair day’s pay for an unfair day’s work. 

FOURTH UPDATE: Great question in the comments about whether the Wilson judgment can be reopened.  Here’s a pdf of Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60 to follow along with.  Can the judgment be overturned?  The rule has provisions for reopening old judgments for fraud and other reasons.  Now that I’ve had more time to look this over and think about it, the answer depends on whether there is evidence that Judge DeLaughter was actually influenced.  We know from Langston’s plea there was a conspiracy to do so, but if a conspiracy is ineffective, or for some reasons the conspirators didn’t follow through, then the fraud really was on Scruggs, whom the government alleges put them up to it on his behalf.  If a conspiracy to corrupt a process doesn’t actually achieve its aims or result in a corruption of the process, it seems to me the judgment is hard to overturn.  But those are just preliminary thoughts.

FIFTH UPDATE: Here’s a Jerry Mitchell story in the Clarion Ledger about the efforts of Scruggs’ attorneys to keep him from having to testify in the Jones v. Scruggs lawsuit, the one the bribery indictments arose out of. The hearing on the request is today. 

SIXTH UPDATE: Check out this Daily Journal story, says John Jones’ lawyer, Grady Tollison, said in the Jones v. Scruggs hearing today that Judge Lackey, the target of the alleged Scruggs bribery conspiracy, is the one who came up with the $40,000 bribe figure as part of an FBI sting.  Guess they were trying to figure out an amount that the alleged conspirators would for sure jump at.  Not too far out of line with the $50,000 allegedly paid to Ed Peters to influence the decision in Wilson, although I’m sure they didn’t know at the time how shrewdly they pegged the market.  These FBI guys and Lackey that came up with that $40,000 figure, which apparently was just right in that sweet spot for the bribe market, man, I want these guys to be picking my sports bets.  Might have been just a little low considering a judge should be worth more than a judge’s best friend, but hey, aren’t we all Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to what you should and should not have done in setting the amount of a bribe in sting operations? I hate it when someone second guesses the amount I set for a bribe, so I’m not going to do that to others.  

SEVENTH UPDATE: Steve Patterson has pleaded guilty.  Here’s the plea agreement.  Says January 10 is the date, and that’s where they put it in the PACER docket today, behind the stuff filed on Friday, but it wasn’t there yesterday, I can assure you of that, must have checked five times for new activity. 

 EIGHTH UPDATE: This Clarion Ledger story says the judge in the Jones v. Scruggs case quashed the subpoenas to make Scruggs testify in the case.  Question: why? The story doesn’t say. Also, and I’ve seen this before in this paper, in referring to the Wilson case it says "both sides settled the case."  You know, I hate it when only my side settles the case and the other side keeps litigating against us, it makes life so difficult.

NINTH UPDATE: Here is a statement from the Mississippi Bar about these crazy events.  An excerpt:

[Bar President Bobby] Bailess continued, “The actions of these few lawyers are not reflective of the vast majority of the over 6,700 lawyers in Mississippi who each day serve their clients and communities with honesty, integrity and competence.”

Bailess concluded by saying, “While The Mississippi Bar is not directly involved in criminal proceedings, the Bar will swiftly deal with those who have pled guilty. With regard to those accused of wrongdoing, the Bar will follow normal disciplinary procedures while allowing the criminal justice system to work.”

The Mississippi Bar’s General Counsel, Adam Kilgore, added, “The Mississippi Bar takes very seriously its roll as a designated disciplinary agency of the Supreme Court of Mississippi. The attorney discipline process is regulated by the  

Rules of Discipline for the Mississippi State Bar, as set forth by the Supreme Court of Mississippi. Under Rule 15 of those rules, the Bar’s Office of General Counsel is prohibited from discussing specific cases until such time as they become public record by way of the attorney discipline process.” 

TENTH UPDATE: Hood speaks, doesn’t say much. Story by John O’Brien of Legal Newsline. 

37 Comments

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37 Responses to Scruggs Nation, Day 48: center for news updates

  1. Mslawyer

    David or other lawyers…
    Would this be enought to re-open or re-evaluate Wilson’s case both on the state and federal level? If more collaborate on the story (Patterson, Balducci, “close personal friend) would that be enough?

  2. Great question. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 (and I’m assuming Mississippi has an equivalent state statute if not the exact same) says that you can correct a final judgment within one year of entry for mistake, inadvertence, excusable neglect, newly discovered evidence and FRAUD. Too late for the one year, I believe, but the rule also says it does not limit the inherent power of a court to “entertain an independent action action” or “to set aside a judgment for fraud upon the court.” I think this qualifies. Great, great question.

  3. boogiewoogieman

    David, why do you suppose Peters is referred to in the indictment as a “close personal friend” rather than by name?

  4. Jamey

    I may be asking an obvious question but not being a lawyer I not sure how plea agreements work. I noticed that the plea agreement and the waiver were signed on the same day. Does that mean that Farese told Zach that Lansgston was going to sign a plea? I believe I saw where the judge would not release Farese from being Zach’s attorney. What exactly can Farese discuss with Zach about the plea agreement he helped Langston negotiate.

  5. mslawyer

    Another follow-up question. If the intended bribe was influence – a much more opaque and less tracable currency than hard cash – how would the efficacy of influence be proven other than the guilty party basically giving themselves up? With the reports that are out now, we have Scruggs saying he could deliver the result, money paid in order to get this message to the judge, and the judge receiving a phone call about said influence – here the judgeship. It just seems like because the bribe was something other than money, and yet something quite more influencial than money in some minds, it is almost untraceable. Would collaboration by all other parties involved suffice?

  6. Waverly223

    What financial advantage would there be to Scruggs if all of the “savings” from the alleged bribe were to be split among the co-conspirators? According to the information, Scruggs would have gotten none of the benefit of the alleged conspiracy – I must be missing something!

  7. Busy day for me with day work so not a lot of time for questions. Real quick, in order. Boogie — they probably had this thing under seal but didn’t want anyone to see the name because the Feds were still working with this person and wanted to keep the identity close. Didn’t work, obviously.
    Jamey — don’t know, don’t have time at the moment to find out.
    MSLawyer — good point, very hard to trace. Guess we will need to know exactly what Ed Peters said, will need to know what role Lott played and more about the means Scruggs supposedly authorized.
    Waverly– the lawsuit was about $15 million, he wound up settling for much less than that, I can’t remember the amount and don’t have time to look it up, but his savings were more than the $3 million.

  8. Imjustice4all

    The facts are within a month of Langston’s appearence in the case. (Ed Peters was unknown to the Wilson team to be involved in the matter until this came out.) The Judge went from being perceived as being fair to actually favoring Wilson, to being the first Judge in Mississippi to reverse a ruling by Special Master Bobby Sneed. This ruling tracking that of the Luckey verdict said Dick owed Wilson about 15 million plus attorneys fees and expenses. Delaughter reversed this saying that Wilson owed Dick 2 million somehow. Everyone at the Time assumed that Mewrkel had done something to piss off Delaughter or something else as it was an incredible ruling.
    What was at stake was not just 25 million (15 plus af and expenses for 12 years of litigation) but all Mississippi tobacco money as Wilson had claimed he sould get the benefits of the investment Dick made with his money in the Tobacco litigation. (Fruit of the poison tree.) Not just Dicks share all of it. Judge Lee had withheld his ruling on this matter until the Mississippi part of the case was decided. Hence, any win by Wilson could have been catastrophic to Scruggs and the Tobacco nation. So they can not plead that they got to Delaughter, no matter what. They are going to jail anyway but this is there attempt to keep their money from Wilson.
    Before you buy it then, read all of Delaughter’s rulings. Then read the Luckey verdict and Sneed’s decision.
    If you think the Delaughter ruling was a proper interpertation of Mississippi law please explain it to me Bobby Sneed and the other Judges.

  9. Amazed

    I have a question for the Lawyers here. Who in the State of MS can call for a “Special Prosecutor” to look into State charges? I know Jim Hood has the power (Wont Use It against friends) but is there anyone else who can call for a start to the process for the states side of all of this. The feds are handing out sweetheart plea agreements and it seems as if the State is left getting the shaft. All these guys should be facing serious jail time.

  10. Texas Tupac

    It looks like the mystery of the $40,000 figure has been solved–Judge Lackey named his price as part of the sting operation. See Clarion-Ledger breaking news

  11. Around Town

    As I think I’ve said before, Judge Lackey thought his request was too high! Just a drop in the bucket now that we know how much cash has been thrown around over the years.

  12. alsoalawyer

    I hope Patterson loses his law license over this! Oh wait, he never had one, but was allowed to knowingly hold himself out as one and split fees like one. Who of the six co-conspirators will be the next to flip? I’m going to start an office pool.
    And I’m hearing that this is just the tip of the iceburg. I wonder how many judges are getting real nervous right about now?!

  13. Mississippian

    David, I know you are busy and thanks so much for all of your work. My question goes towards state charges towards Scruggs Nation etal. I’m not a lawyer so sorry if its a dumb question but wouldn’t there be some type of time limitation involved? If so, all the more reason for Hood to get something filed against these people now before that time frame runs out–unless that could be what he uses as his “saving grace”…oh, I didn’t want to get in the Feds way and now the time has expired so I can’t file anything for the State…

  14. Carly

    I failed to see in the document’s penalties section the order for the defendant to surrender his license to practice law.
    Are lawyers who are convicted felons allowed to continue practicing law when they are released from prison? Surely not. Anyone know?

  15. Around Town

    Jones v. Scruggs: Judge Coleman will give his ruling on the arbitration issue at 10:30 am Central tomorrow.

  16. Sutpens100

    Jerry Mitchell’s story also says, “Although attempted bribery would ‘undermine justice more than any other action,’ Coleman noted, the litigation [Jones v. Scruggs]is headed for arbitration.” I don’t know if that’s accurate or not since others are saying Judge Coleman will rule on the arbitration motion tomorrow. But, if true, the irony is priceless –
    mabye Judge Lackey also would have ordered arbitration if Balducci had not tried to bribe him. Something to be said, I guess, for writing your briefs on a napkin.

  17. Wes

    Attorneys that are convicted felons are
    subject to disbarrment.
    That action is taken by the MBA with
    final decree by the MS Supreme Court.

  18. Wes

    Attorneys that are convicted felons are
    subject to disbarrment.
    That action is taken by the MBA with
    final decree by the MS Supreme Court.

  19. DeltaNative

    Carly – See David’s post from Day 41 for an excellent summary of the facts. In short, the answer is “no”.

  20. IFA

    AG has nothing to do with this case reagardless of who is involved. It is a Federal matter and AG will stay out of it until they are done. That is not unusual at all, and Hood is getting bad rap for this. They are all going to jail for long time and the Feds have been masterful so why would anyone want the State involved right now. There will be probable income tax invasion charges next anyway.
    But why is Dunn Lampton the other state US Attorney getting a free ride on this on not pursuing Scvruggs in the other bribery case (US vs Minor) that is the real question to me.

  21. DeltaFred

    I wonder why AirLangston just flew to Melbourne, FLA
    http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N484AT

  22. Backbenchwatcher

    Langston surrendered his license to practice last Tuesday. Plead on Monday, surrenered license on tuesday, spent wed, thur, and Friday, in front of the GJ.

  23. amazed

    IFA Jim Hood has nothing to do with this case? BS!! There should be State charges besides the federal charges. Thats what we elected Jim Hood to do. But maybe bootleg products from China coming into Mississippi’s market are more important to him than REAL CRIME! Hood was swore in last week and said that was his priority right now. How amazing!!! If our state waits for this YOYO to do anything we will never see Justice for these crimes. Feds will not go after smaller fish that were also paid. Thats why the AG Should be there to investigate. I doubt Jim Hood has the STONES to do so given that some of his friends already have coped pleas and are among his biggest campaign contributors.

  24. Carly

    Thanks for the information, Wes.
    DeltaNative, I did go back to Day 41. David certainly is certainly a good info provider, isn’t he?
    It seems the Office of General Counsel has already set the wheels in motion for the disbarment of Balducci.
    Here is what the OGC said about lawyers who are convicted or those who plead guilty. This is for those of us who haven’t a clue.
    Excerpt:
    “If a lawyer is convicted of a felony as outlined in Rule 6 of the MRD, or pleads guilty to a felony as outlined in Rule 6, MRD, the OGC files a formal complaint against the attorney in accordance with Rule 6, MRD. The complaint contains a certified copy of the conviction or guilty plea. Under Rule 6, the certified copy of the conviction or guilty plea is all the evidence that is necessary of the underlying conduct. The formal complaint the OGC files contains a request that the Mississippi Supreme Court disbar the attorney. Along with the formal complaint, the OGC also files a motion for immediate suspension pending the appeal of the conviction. In most cases, the Mississippi Supreme Court grants the motion for suspension fairly quickly. Once the appeal is decided and if the conviction is not overturned, the OGC then files a motion to disbar the attorney, which the Mississippi Supreme Court takes up at that point.
    In the case of a guilty plea, the OGC does not file a motion for immediate suspension but asks for disbarment in the formal complaint since guilty pleas as generally not appealed. The OGC has filed such a formal complaint under Rule 6, MRD, against Timothy Balducci, one of the attorneys indicted in the Scruggs matter. Mr. Balducci, you will recall, entered a guilty plea. The OGC submitted a certified copy of the guilty plea with the formal complaint, asking for disbarment. That complaint is a matter of public record. The original is filed in the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office.”

  25. Carly

    Backbenchwatcher:
    “Langston surrendered his license to practice last Tuesday. Plead on Monday, surrenered license on tuesday, spent wed, thur, and Friday, in front of the GJ.”
    If a lawyer voluntarily surrends his law license before he pleads, does this put him in a better position to be reinstated at a later date?

  26. MSlawyer

    A really hilarious coincidence: Judge Bobby Delaughter today ruled in favor of AG Jim Hood and against Governor Barbour, that the special election to fill Trent Lott’s Senate seat must be held in 90 days rather than next November, as Gov. Barbour had argued.

  27. duckhead

    Here is a stupid question from a non-lawyer.
    If Langston previously represented Scruggs, is there some kind of attorney client priviledge that prevents him from testifying against Scruggs?

  28. Duckhead, answer is no, crime-fraud exception, any legal advice sought or communications rendered to further the future commission of a crime fall under this exception.

  29. The circle keeps getting tighter and tighter. If I am counting right, there are only three defendants in the bribery mess still standing (s1, s2 & backstop). Bout time for the feds to release another load of indictments pursuant to the recent Grand Jury testimony. Has anyone found Ed Peters?

  30. EyeonHood

    I recall Steve Pattersons wife saying “they” had just returned from the Holy Lands when the crap hit the fan. They were there, if I recall, for cleansing and edification. Looks like the really cleansing is just now starting. Oh well, they say confession is good for the soul.

  31. Rodney Cole

    The Rigsby notebook dated 9/25/06 gives an illiterate insight into the very personal involvement of Scruggs et al in this particular bit of megabusiness. And a laugh, rather comfortingly not cynical.
    *Trent Lott called me…to thank me for my help. Trent wanted to put up a temporary personal trailer on his lot. City said “?illegible?”, put up a retaining wall, get inspections.
    Very frustrating and running people off. Locals blame FEMA, FEMA says locals holding things up.
    So they will just stay in Dr Thompson place after it is fix up. Only problem is Dickie Scruggs stays there too.*
    Many thanks David, for your hard work. I sense that change is in the air, not least, for you, in the relationship between information dissemination, comment and the ghost of journalism (a.k.a. Jerry Mitchell) within this thing called Web 2.0.
    And you pretend to have a day job too?

  32. Rodney, one small clarification, I think the reference is more properly to the “Brian Ford” notebook, but it is a remarkable document no matter what you call, including that passage you highlighted.

  33. ifa

    Amazed,
    I am sure you would like to arrest and execute every trial lawyer in Mississippi, but let it play out. You will get a good bag limit I promise you. And you will soon understand why Hood cant investigate this. Feds dont wont Hood involved, it is that simple. You figure it out.

  34. Amazed

    IFA I am not biased towards trial lawyers. I do understand Hoods problems and conflicts with this deal. However I like most people in MS am wondering WHY the state has not stepped up at all? Who besides Jim Hood in our State can appoint a special prosecutor?

  35. Amazed

    IFA one more comment. In our country we can go after M Vick for fighting dogs both fed and state. But bribes and kickbacks in our state doesn’t even warrant an investigation on a state level?

  36. IFA

    Amazed,
    I must confess that is a valid point. I would assume that Hood has someone monitoring the case but maybe not since he may have just gotten a target letter.
    In all likelihood Al Hopkins will be the AG looking into all this before it is all over. I am not trying to minimize the impact of this, it is very very serious to me and I think they should aa be tried for treason as the fundamental right to a fair Jury trial is one of the basis for our constitution and our freedoms. This is akin to Doctors killing patients to me. It is just that I think it is unfair to hit the AG with not publically pursuing this at this time since he may well be indicted as well, so he is in a catch 22 while given Dunn Lamption a free ride as he was well aware of thiese allegations but decided not to pursue them after meeting with Karl Rove in Jackson.