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Hood tells LNL little in wake of Scruggs indictment

By John O'Brien | Dec 6, 2007

JACKSON, Miss. - As one of his special assistant attorneys general pleads guilty to a bribery charge and one of his largest campaign contributors prepares to defend himself against the same, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has become uncharacteristically tight-lipped.

So quiet is Hood that the Mississippi political site Y'all Politics is getting curious.

"Normally, you would fear for the life of anyone standing between Jim Hood and a news camera for a public corruption investigation of this type," wrote Alan Lange, the site's editor. "However, not one word has been uttered in the press and seemingly no investigation is pending by Jim Hood's office."

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and four others were charged with attempting to bribe an elected state official, Lafayette Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey. Their alleged purpose was to have Lackey compel arbitration in a dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys fees from a Hurricane Katrina-related settlement.

Former SAAG Timothy Balducci, appointed by Hood for a case against MCI that led to $14 million in attorneys fees, has already pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the U.S. Attorney's office.

Legal Newsline called and e-mailed Hood's office earlier this week, asking the possibility of state charges against Scruggs. Scruggs is a campaign contributor of Hood's.

"This office does not wish to comment on a case that we have no involvement in and for which we do not know all the facts," a return e-mail said.

Lange wrote that Hood's office has a Public Integrity Division that, according to the Attorney General's site, is responsible for "the prosecution of several types of criminal cases in the state courts in Mississippi.

"As its primary mission, PID is charged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting public corruption and white collar crime."

According to federal prosecutors in Alabama who have charged Scruggs with criminal contempt, Hood and Scruggs have had a close working relationship during Katrina litigation. They also say Scruggs has donated $44,000 to Hood's campaigns.

Scruggs is alleged to have disobeyed a federal judge's order that he return documents from E.A. Renfroe Co., a claims-handling company working with State Farm, to the company's attorneys. They were obtained by two sisters who used to work for Renfroe.

Instead, Scruggs gave the documents to Hood.

The prosecutors say they plan to show evidence of the "remarkably close relationship" between Scruggs and Hood at trial, including a letter from Hood to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin that urged her not to pursue the charges because Scruggs was a confidential informant for his office.

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