Junior Scruggs also gets prison time

Legal News Line Jul. 2, 2008, 11:48am

Editor's note: This story will be updated later Wednesday.

OXFORD, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Despite recommendations for only probation, Zach Scruggs, the son of famed plaintiffs attorney and admitted felon Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, was sentenced to prison Wednesday.

For his role in a judicial bribery scheme that resulted in five years imprisonment for his father, Zach will spend 14 months in prison. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge than Dickie.

Both federal prosecutors and Zach's defense attorneys asked for probation, but U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers stayed on the tough side. Dickie Scruggs received the maximum sentence allowed under his plea agreement, while fellow Scruggs Law Firm member Sidney Backstrom received a 28-month sentence. His max was three years.

All three were ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.

More than 600 Hurricane Katrina cases were settled early in 2007, earning a Scruggs enterprise $26.5 million in attorneys fees. John Griffin Jones filed suit against Scruggs, claiming his firm was shortchanged when the money was divided.

Scruggs admitted that he gave the go-ahead for attorney Timothy Balducci to offer $50,000 to Lackey for a ruling that would have sent the dispute to an arbitration panel. Balducci pleaded guilty in November to the scheme, and his business partner Steven Patterson, a former state Auditor, soon followed.

Lackey contacted the FBI soon after Balducci's first mention of a bribe. Scruggs agreed to a maximum prison sentence of five years, pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge while the other five were dropped.

Son Zach pleaded guilty misprision of a felony, meaning he knew about the scheme but did nothing to prevent it.

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