BILOXI, Miss. - A prominent trial lawyer with close ties to the Mississippi Attorney General's office was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges that he attempted to bribe a state court judge.
Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the attorney whose firm made more than $1 billion representing the State of Mississippi in its case against tobacco companies, is alleged to have tried to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $40,000 to enter a favorable order in a lawsuit, according to The Associated Press.
The suit is a dispute between attorneys arguing over how to split $26 million in attorneys fees from Hurricane Katrina litigation against insurance companies.
Also indicted were coworkers Zack Scruggs, his son, and Sidney Backstrom. They are charged with conspiracy.
The FBI searched Dickie Scruggs' office yesterday. He has already been charged with criminal contempt because of his actions in another Katrina-related case.
Federal Judge William Acker feels Scruggs did not comply with an injunction in December, refusing 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.
Scruggs is a campaign contributor to Hood, who has his own class action suit against insurance companies alleged to have intentionally misrepresented the amount of damage caused by wind (covered by the policies) and water (covered by a federal flood program).
Scruggs has long had ties to the Attorney General's Office in Mississippi. His firm earned $1.4 billion when it was hired by former Attorney General Mike Moore to negotiate the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in the late 1990s.