OXFORD, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - On the deadline for filing, Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter's defense team submitted five pretrial motions in his judicial bribery case then asked for more time to react to their results.
DeLaughter is alleged to have taken a bribe in a case involving disgraced plaintiffs lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who is already in jail for bribing another judge and pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe DeLaughter. DeLaughter's rulings prevented Scruggs from having to pay millions of dollars to a former business partner, federal prosecutors allege.
DeLaughter, currently suspended with pay from the bench and awaiting his Aug. 17 trial, on Friday asked for two more weeks to file pretrial motions "that may become necessary based upon further defense investigation and receipt of additional discovery documents."
The motions include a request for federal prosecutors to immediately disclose any evidence from another case if they are planning to, disclosure of any federal evidence that helps DeLaughter and a request for a jury questionnaire.
DeLaughter's attorney also claims a "prejudicial" article in the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson needs to be inspected. The article mentions testimony from Timothy Balducci, Scruggs' attorney in the case, in another matter.
Balducci, who has pleaded guilty to the other Scruggs bribery scheme, testified that DeLaughter was upset when he was nominated for the federal judgeship he thought he would be given in exchange for his rulings.
"These articles point to the issue of whether the grand jury could be said to have been improperly used for civil investigative purposes..." the motion says.
Balducci teamed with Joey Langston to represent Scruggs in the case. It is alleged that the two paid $1 million to former Hinds District Attorney Ed Peters, who used to work with DeLaughter, to bribe the judge with the promise of a federal judgeship.
Scruggs pleaded guilty to the scheme earlier this year, receiving an extra 2 1/2 years on his current five-year prison sentence for a separate judicial bribery scheme. Langston received three years when he pleaded guilty to the scheme.
The five-count indictment, originally filed Jan. 6, alleges DeLaughter had improper ex parte communication with Peters and had urged Peters not to enter himself as counsel in the case. Scruggs' brother-in-law, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, would recommend DeLaughter for a federal judgeship, it is alleged.
Lott recommended someone else for the opening. DeLaughter pleaded not guilty.
More than 20 years ago, William Roberts Wilson, Alwyn Luckey and Scruggs each had their own stake in a group Scruggs started to file asbestos cases. Wilson and Luckey eventually sold their interests in more than 2,300 asbestos cases in agreements that were interpreted differently by all parties, and the two filed suit against Scruggs. Wilson filed his in 1994, and it dragged on for 12 years.
Luckey was awarded $17.5 million in his dispute with Scruggs after a trial in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis, but Wilson received only a $1.5 million payment because DeLaughter's interpretation of the contract showed no remaining balance owed to Wilson, and that a trial would have been merely for bragging rights.
A special master, though, had recommended Wilson be awarded $15 million.
Scruggs was already incarcerated for attempting to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey with $50,000 for a favorable ruling in a dispute over Hurricane Katrina attorneys fees.
Scruggs gained notoriety when his work helped lead to the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which has an estimated worth of $246 billion for the 52 participating territories and states. Mississippi is not one of them, but has its own separate agreement.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.