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Hood: Thrill might be gone

By John O'Brien | Feb 28, 2008


JACKSON, Miss. - Asserting that he did not need to tap the deep pockets of indicted trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs to get re-elected, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Wednesday his passion for the job may have diminished.

"I didn't care who (Scruggs) supported," Hood told The Associated Press. "I wasn't crazy about being attorney general anyway."

Hood added that he liked being a district attorney more than being the State's lawyer. He received the most votes of any statewide official in November, when he won re-election over challenger Al Hopkins, but has been criticized by editorials like a recent one in The Democrat, of Senatobia, that called for his resignation.

The turning point appears to be the federal indictment of Scruggs, who is charged with attempting to bribe a state judge in a dispute over at least $26.5 million in attorneys fees earned in Hurricane Katrina settlements.

Timothy Balducci, an alleged co-conspirator of Scruggs' who has pleaded guilty, says Scruggs offered him and business partner Steven Patterson, a former state Auditor, $500,000 to attempt to influence Hood's decision to criminally prosecute State Farm over its handling of Katrina claims.

"It was like they were fishing for information more than anything," Hood told The AP. "I didn't get a dime, wasn't offered a dime and wouldn't have taken a dime."

Scruggs worried that criminal charges would hamper his ability to finalized a settlement, Balducci claims. Scruggs and attorney Joey Langston have combined to donate $440,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which donated the same amount to Hood.

Hood eventually dropped his criminal investigation and received $5 million in investigative costs from State Farm. State Farm later sued Hood, claiming he was threatening the reopening of the investigation to force civil settlements.

The suit by State Farm was recently settled, though the terms remain sealed. He was asked during a hearing if Scruggs ever threatened him with the withdrawal of his support, and he said Scruggs never did.

Most notably, Langston represented the State in a lawsuit against MCI that resulted in a $100 million settlement and $14 million in attorneys fees. Federal prosecutors say Hood and Scruggs shared a "remarkably close relationship" on Katrina issues and plan to show evidence of that at Scruggs' criminal contempt trial in Alabama.

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