Adversary wants Scruggs' bribery money

John O'Brien Feb. 19, 2009, 8:00pm


OXFORD, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - The lawyer allegedly cheated by famed plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs feels he should given more than $400,000 seized during the investigation of one of two Scruggs judicial bribery schemes.

William Roberts Wilson Jr. staked his claim to $425,000 left from a $3 million "reverse contingency fee" scheme Wednesday and was backed by the affidavit of Joey Langston, Scruggs' lawyer in the dispute between the two.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported the claim Thursday. Langston's affidavit also claims Scruggs never paid what he promised to Langston.

For Scruggs, it was a case of a man who made his fortune on contingency fees trying to protect it with a different kind.

More than 20 years ago, William Roberts Wilson, Alwyn Luckey and Scruggs each had their own stake in a group Scruggs started to file asbestos cases. Wilson and Luckey eventually sold their interests in more than 2,300 asbestos cases in agreements that were interpreted differently by all parties, and the two filed suit against Scruggs. Wilson filed his in 1994, and it dragged on for 12 years.

Luckey was awarded $17.5 million in his dispute with Scruggs after a trial in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, but Wilson received only a $1.5 million payment because Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter's interpretation of the contract showed no remaining balance owed to Wilson, and that a trial would have been merely for bragging rights.

A special master, though, had recommended Wilson be awarded $15 million.

Langston says Scruggs offered him $3 million to start a bribery scheme, and whatever Wilson ended up being owed would be taken out of it. The rest would be Langston's.

Langston says he enlisted the services of former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, for whom DeLaughter used to work. Peters was to be given $1 million from the amount to convince DeLaughter to rule in Scruggs' favor.

As bait, DeLaughter was allegedly told Scruggs' brother-in-law, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, could recommend him for a federal judgeship. Though DeLaughter ruled for Scruggs, Lott did not recommend his name.

The $425,000 in question is from Peters' $1 million.

Langston pleaded guilty to the scheme last year and is waiting to begin a three-year prison sentence. Scruggs, already incarcerated for another judicial bribery scheme involving Hurricane Katrina fees, recently pleaded guilty and got another 2 1/2 years tacked on to his sentence.

DeLaughter has also been charged, but he pleaded not guilty. In January, Wilson filed a civil suit against Scruggs and his alleged co-conspirators.

Scruggs gained notoriety when his work helped lead to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states. Mississippi is not one of them, but has its own separate agreement.

The case, and Scruggs' work, was depicted in the Al Pacino/Russell Crowe film "The Insider."

DeLaughter has also been depicted on the big screen.

He and Peters reopened the 1963 murder case of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, and Byron de la Beckwith was convicted of the crime in 1994.

Alec Baldwin portrayed DeLaughter in the 1996 movie "Ghosts of Mississippi."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at

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