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Feds search another Mississippi attorney's office

By John O'Brien | Dec 10, 2007


BOONEVILLE, Miss. - The FBI was searching the office of the attorney representing indicted trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs on Monday.

According to a report in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, FBI agents executed a search warrant at the office of Joey Langston, another trial lawyer with ties to the Mississippi Attorney General's office. Almost two weeks earlier, the FBI had searched Scruggs' office and apparently found enough to indict him on charges that he and four others attempted to bribe a state judge.

Scruggs hired, among others, Langston and William Quin of the Langston Law Firm to help defend him.

Scruggs and his remaining three co-defendants, son Zach and Sidney Backstrom of the Scruggs Law Firm and former State Auditor Steven Patterson are alleged to have conspired to bribe a state judge in a dispute over $26.5 million in attorneys fees earned in Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's settlement with State Farm Insurance Cos.

The fifth co-defendant, Timothy Balducci, pleaded guilty to a count of bribery and is cooperating with federal prosecutors. Hood has refused to comment on the situation, though Scruggs has contributed $44,000 to Hood over the years.

Hood hired Langston's firm to represent the State in its lawsuit against MCI that alleged the company owed millions in back taxes. As part of the $100 million settlement, Langston's firm received $7 million and the Louisiana firm that first noticed the problem received another $7 million.

State Auditor Phil Bryant, who will soon take office as Lieutenant Governor, wants the attorneys fees returned, and Langston's firm asked a bankruptcy judge in New York to decide the dispute.

Langston's complaint calls Bryant "a political opportunist." Last year, Bryant had determined that a $4.2 million payment to the state's Children's Justice Center using settlement funds was inappropriate. Hood had given the center $2.95 million, and Langston provided $1.25 million.

At the time of the settlement, Balducci worked at Langston's firm. Hood appointed he and Langston special assistant attorneys general, and both were also campaign contributors to Hood.

According to the indictment of Scruggs, Balducci claims he and Scruggs know where "bodies" are "buried."

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.

Scruggs faces up to 75 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

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