Scruggs trial date set

John O'Brien Dec. 5, 2007, 3:21pm


OXFORD, Miss. - In less than seven weeks, prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs will go on trial for allegedly conspiring to bribe a state judge.

Fifty-four days will have passed since Scruggs and four others were indicted on the charges by a federal grand jury before the four who pleaded not guilty will have their day in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi in Oxford, on Jan. 22.

William Quinn and Joey Langston of the Langston Law Firm headline the team defending Scruggs, son Zach, coworker Sidney Backstrom and former State Auditor Steven Patterson. Patterson's business partner, attorney Timothy Balducci, pleaded guilty late Tuesday is cooperating with federal investigators. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Judge Neal Biggers Jr. will preside over the case. The scheduling order sets deadlines of Dec. 10 to pick counsel of record and Jan. 7 for all pretrial motions and plea agreements.

The remaining four defendants are alleged to have conspired to bribe Lafayette Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 to compel arbitration in a dispute with another firm over $26.5 million in attorneys fees.

The dispute over which Lackey previously presided arose from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's settlement with State Farm Insurance Cos.

If convicted of the bribery charge faces up to 75 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines. He's also facing criminal contempt charges in Alabama, where federal Judge William Acker feels Scruggs did not comply with an injunction last December. Acker says he refused to hand over documents from E.A. Renfroe, a claims-handling company working with State Farm, back to the company's attorneys.

Instead, Scruggs gave them to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Acker recommended to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin that she pursue criminal contempt charges, but she declined. That's when Acker enlisted the help of special prosecutors who would file charges.

Hood wrote Martin to ask that she not file charges, claiming Scruggs was a confidential informant for his office.

For more Scruggs coverage, click here.

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