Miss. GOP forks over Scruggs money, calls for investigation

John O'Brien Mar. 17, 2008, 4:28pm


JACKSON, Miss. - Now that he's an admitted felon, famed trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs' money is no good to some.

The Mississippi Republican Party said Monday that it will give away money donated by Scruggs to the party in a three-year span and called for an investigation into any relationship between Scruggs and state Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. Scruggs pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to bribe a state judge.

"It is our view here at the Mississippi Republican Party that now that Mr. Scruggs has admitted his guilt, all of us involved here in the public process must firmly and immediately take a stand to guard against future efforts to improperly affect the public process; and we must make every effort to restore the confidence of the people of Mississippi in that process," said Jim Herring, chairman of the state GOP.

"Unless the people have reasonable confidence in our judicial system and the fairness of our political process, the foundations of our great nation will crumble."

Scruggs pleaded guilty Friday to 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. He faces a maximum prison sentence of five years.

To Boys and Girls Clubs in the state, the GOP will give $27,250 -- the amount donated by Scruggs to the party from 2002-04. Herring said his party wants to make a statement that its integrity "is not for sale."

He also claimed other political organizations, like the Democratic Attorneys General Association and the Victory PAC of state House of Representatives Speaker Billy McCoy, should return Scruggs' money.

In 2007, Scruggs gave $300,000 to the DAGA, which also received $100,000 from attorney Joey Langston. Langston has also pleaded guilty to a judicial bribery scheme involving a Scruggs attorneys fees dispute. The DAGA later donated $400,000 to Hood.

Herring says the Chief Justice of the state's Supreme Court, James Smith, should appoint independent counsel to begin an investigation of any relationship between Scruggs and his associates with Hood.

Herring wants the counsel "fully funded and with subpoena powers, with one of the goals to be whether Mr. Scruggs or others should be charged with violations of Mississippi state laws."

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