Scruggs plea reached same day electronic evidence returned, reportedly saves son

John O'Brien Mar. 14, 2008, 4:37pm

Dickie Scruggs

OXFORD, Miss. - Saved by his father's guilty plea, Zach Scruggs will apparently avoid jail time but surrender his law license.

High-profile plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs struck the deal Thursday with federal prosecutors who had alleged he, his son and attorney Sidney Backstrom conspired to bribe a state judge.

According to a report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution of Zach Scruggs as part of the plea, though the plea document filed with the court makes no mention of it.

One motion entered Friday asks the Court to allow evidence seized from a raid on the Scruggs Law Firm to be introduced. It says that duplicate images of various computers and electronic storage media had been sent to defense attorneys Thursday, the same day the plea deal was arranged.

"Those images were turned over to FBI Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) agents who were not otherwise involved in this investigation," the motion says. "The CART agents, who are specially trained in the searches of computers, searched those computers and electronic storage media for items that were responsive to the search warrant.

"When the CART agents had completed their analysis, they turned the responsive documents, over to Assistant United States Attorneys Laurence J. Laurenzi and Frederick H. Godwin of the Western District of Tennessee. AUSA's Godwin and Laurenzi reviewed the documents, found them to be responsive to the search warrant, and on March 13, 2007 accompanied an FBI agent who made an inventory and return to U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers.

"That inventory and return included copies of the responsive documents, which were returned in hard copy form, and stamped SCRUGGS0001-0395 (inclusive)."

The plea deal was made public at a hearing Friday morning that was called to discuss Zach Scruggs' second motion to dismiss. He claimed Timothy Balducci, an original co-defendant who pleaded guilty and wore a wire to meetings, gave grand jury testimony inconsistent with information obtained during the wiretaps.

Biggers denied the motion. Dickie Scruggs faces a maximum five-year prison sentence and $250,000 in fines.

Scruggs first made a name for himself in asbestos cases, representing shipyard workers. After that, his work led to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states. Attorneys earned $1.4 billion in the settlement.

He was charged with offering $50,000 to Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey in exchange for a favorable ruling in a dispute over at least $26.5 million in attorneys fees earned in Hurricane Katrina settlements with State Farm Insurance Cos.

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