OXFORD, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Apparently Michael Mills, the chief U.S. judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, has decided that patience and mercy have limits when it comes to admitted felon Joey Langston.
Before him Tuesday stood Langston, a man who has spent his entire adult life appealing to the reason and emotions of judges and jury and is known for winning a $100 million judgment from MCI on behalf of the State of Mississippi.
Mills opined that he had never witnessed a more talented lawyer than Langston, calling him an 'outstanding litigator.' Still, Mills sentenced Langston to the maximum three-year stay in federal prison for his role in a judicial bribery scheme involving disgraced plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.
Langston asked to be incarcerated in Montgomery, Ala., where he would be best able to care for his insulin-dependant diabetes that requires four injections a day. He was ordered to transport himself to a yet-to-be-determined federal penitentiary on Jan. 15, 2009, before 2 p.m. and pay a $250,000 fine.
"I'll leave it up to you to get there. I wish you the best of luck, and you are now excused," Mills said.
And thus ended the storied career of a man known in north Mississippi with no equal except Santa Claus for generosity, according to the hundreds of letters sent to Mills on Langston's behalf.
However, observers of the swirling soap opera that is/was the Scruggs saga wondered why Langston would be sentenced before any person has been indicted in the federal judicial bribery scandal involving Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott,
Only Langston has pleaded guilty to participation in the scheme to bribe DeLaughter with the promise of a federal judgeship, an appointment for which Lott, Scruggs' brother-in-law, could make a recommendation.
After what has been described as a "courtesy call," Lott recommended someone else.
Lott had resigned his Senate seat just days before Scruggs was charged in a separate judicial bribery scheme involving attorneys fees from Hurricane Katrina litigation. He is serving a five-year sentence in a Kentucky federal prison.
DeLaughter had presided over a long-standing dispute between Scruggs and former partner William Roberts Wilson, Jr. The two teamed up on asbestos cases and disagreed over the amount of fees Wilson was owed after he sold his interest in the enterprise.
A special master recommended DeLaughter rule Wilson was owed $15 million, but DeLaughter instead decided in 2006 that Wilson was already paid in full when Scruggs gave him $1.5 million.
Langston has been cooperating with federal prosecutors since he pleaded guilty. His testimony and assistance is expected to be instrumental in the Hinds County investigation and any subsequent prosecutions.
Langston's former partner, Timothy Balducci, also represented Scruggs in the Hinds County case. He was caught attempting to bribe Lafayette Circuit Judge Henry Lackey and was persuaded to wear a wire to further nail the coffin over Scruggs.
Langston was described by his lawyers as ashamed, embarrassed, contrite, remorseful and repentant. His lawyer, Tony Farese of the firm of Farese, Farese, and Farese in Ashland, stated that Langston understood the judge's ruling, afforded it respect and would continue to assist in the Hinds County prosecution.
As well he might. Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides for lessening of Langston's sentence if he continues, post-conviction, to provide "additional and substantial" assistance to the ongoing investigations and expected prosecutions.
Langston and Balducci are currently in a battle over $14 million in attorneys fees from the MCI settlement with Auditor Stacy Pickering.