(Zach) Scruggs Nation, March 18

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. 

  

 

12 Comments

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12 Responses to (Zach) Scruggs Nation, March 18

  1. bothered

    Moore was involved on an unofficial basis. Hmmm, per scruggs past modus operandi this may mean that Moore was acting as an intermediary (message boy) between scruggs and someone else. Who? In past cases ala balducci and peters it would be a judge. Which judge? No judge in Oxford that’s for sure. My guess is scruggs was using Moore to talk to someone he wasn’t supposed to talk to. Perhaps Moore was carrying messages between scruggs and delaughter or scruggs and Patterson or scruggs and peters. Scruggs is not above paying witnesses millions of dollars. The FBI, DOJ and Judge Biggers should absolutely inquire!

  2. rt

    The Clarion Ledger did run that article, but pulled it that day. Unfortunately, they were unprofessional about it–not even referencing the article. I think the accepted practice is to at least append a correction.

  3. Anderson

    Re: the plea deadline, I asked my friend the former district-court clerk about it, and she said that usually you can take a plea any time – some defendants wait to see what the empaneled jury looks like. However, the feds might challenge whether you’re entitled to any leniency for “conserving prosecutorial resources” or somesuch.

  4. hazel75

    According to Patsy Brumsfield at the NEMSDJ (http://www.djournal.com/pages/story.asp?ID=269779&pub=1&div=News), Keker has been added as counsel for Zach as well. Sure does look like a trial is in the works. I have to say I’m interested as to what Backstrom’s testimony will be regarding Zach will be.

  5. DeltaNative

    Chip Robertson’s “mission statement” on his website (linked above) says, in part:
    “I believe that those who would take advantage of wealth or power to tilt the marketplace in their favor must be held accountable under a system that respects all persons equally.”
    How does he intend to apply that in this case?

  6. MORE COWBELL

    David, can you outline Greenlee’s case against Scruggs Junior? In other words, how will the feds attack Zack? Any phone calls, pleadings, smoking napkins?

  7. Clarke Holland

    I argued the Tuepker v. State Farm case for State Farm(U.S.5th Circuit). After Dickie’s less than stellar performance at the Leonard v. Nationwide argument, they brought in Mr. Chip Robertson to argue Tuepker. Dickie was there working the crowd, but stayed in his seat.

  8. Zeke

    I think it’s pretty certain that Dickie cannot take the Fifth and refuse to testify about what he’s pled guilty to. But, he can and probably would claim the Fifth on any other alleged wrongdoing (e.g., Delaughter).
    It is also certain that Dickie will testify that Zach did nothing wrong and knew nothing. Remember that he has no obligation to cooperate in his plea agreement. He will fall on his sword to protect Zach. The question is: How will this play in Oxford? It may be exactly what a local jury expects–and it might work–except for Backstrom.
    Backstrom’s plea deal, on the other hand, does require him to cooperate and I expect that he will testify fully to Zach’s role in that November 1st meeting. Exactly what he will say is probably foreshadowed by the government’s insistence that he cooperate. They know what he will say.
    Lastly, I don’t think Biggers is the type to allow late pleas, absent a serious change of circumstances. No timely plea plus all of the new lawyers equals a full-on trial. But, what do I know? I thought Dickie’s deal would ensure that Zach was out of danger. I guess we know that he did his best to make that happen but it didn’t.

  9. Entertained

    Just thinking here (admittedly, these thoughts are off the cuff and may not make sense when scrutinized): (1) What are the chances that Mike Moore signed on to the Zach defense team so that it will be harder to invade any discussions he had with Zach, as attorney-client privileged? (2) How helpful can Dickie really be to Zach at this point, having already essentially suggested that he really didn’t know anything about the conspiracy until he woke up one day and found himself going along with it at the 11th hour?

  10. Anderson

    “I guess we know that he did his best to make that happen but it didn’t.”
    Sorry, but I think full cooperation would’ve been Dickie’s “best,” and evidently, for whatever reason, that wasn’t forthcoming. Maybe it was offered and the feds still wouldn’t cut Zach loose. Maybe it wasn’t offered.

  11. David Rossmiller

    More Cowbell, in answer to your question about Greenlee’s plan of attack against Zach, I believe it includes Zach pleading guilty.

  12. james a. clark

    Don’t you think Dickie et al., wish they had a do-over when it came to being fair in splitting a referral fee? Greed brought the big guy down. He’s destroyed himself by being greedy. End of story.