Trent Lott's Brother in Law, Nephew Indicted on Bribery Charges

Sen. Trent Lott's brother-in-law and nephew, both lawyers, were indicted for bribing a state court judge in an effort to obtain a favorable ruling in a case involving Hurricane Katrina claims.

Prominent Mississippi trial attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the brother-in-law of outgoing GOP Sen. Trent Lott, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that he and four ther men tried to bribe a Mississippi state court judge. According to the 13-page indictment, Scruggs and three other attorneys -- including Lott's nephew Zach -- attempted to bribe Mississippi Third Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey with at least $40,000 in cash.

Lackey was assigned to hear a lawsuit in which Scruggs' firm was named as a defendant in a dispute involving $26.5 million in attorneys' fees stemming from a court settlement with State Farm Insurance over Hurricane Katrina claims. The indictment alleges that the bribe was intended to resolve the case in Scruggs' and his firm's favor.

What does this have to do with Trent Lott? Maybe nothing. Or....[More]

[Brother in law Scruggs] later represented hundreds of Gulf Coast homeowners -- including Lott -- whose claims were denied by insurance companies in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Lott's home in Pascagoula was destroyed by the storm.

The Indictment(text here, pdf) contains quotes of numerous incriminating telephone conversations. One example:

Between September 27 and November 1, Balducci allegedly made three cash payments to Lackey, returning from the last meeting with a court order favorable to the defendants. "We paid for this ruling; let's be sure it says what we want it to say," Balducci told Zach Scruggs and Backstrom, according to the indictment.

The Judge tipped off the F.B.I. and cooperated, presumably agreeing to tape his calls with the defendants. I suspect the F.B.I. also got a wiretap on Scruggs' or his co-defendants' phones, since there are several calls described in the Indictment that don't involve Judge Lackey.

Getting a wiretap on a law firm's telephone is unusual -- particularly due to the substantial and cumbersome minimization efforts required to ensure that calls of clients and lawyers unrelated to the criminal investigation are not overheard.

It will be interesting to see how Scruggs' and the other defendants decide to defend the case...if it's by challenging a wiretap, the case will probably go on a year or more. If they think their goose is cooked, there will probably be early pleas. And, of course, any one of them could turn on the others in exchange for leniency in his own case. Stay tuned.

< Rudy and Judi in Southampton: Guess Who Paid? | Key West Time and Open Thread >
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    I think Peggy Noonan had it right (none / 0) (#1)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 11:05:51 PM EST
    "Is it irresponsible to speculate? It is irresponsible not to."

    is george bush an alien pod person, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Nov 28, 2007 at 11:54:10 PM EST
    masquerading (poorly) as a human being? just speculation, mind you.

    yeah, i'd guess this has something to do with sen. lott's surprise decision to leave congress. i don't know what, but most likely we'll be finding out in the not to distant future.

    next up, dennis hastert.

    Scruggs (none / 0) (#3)
    by Deconstructionist on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 07:08:17 AM EST
      is already one of the richest lawyers ever. I would think even 26 million-- let alone a share of it-- would have neglible effect on his life at this point. What would lead someone with that kind of fortune to risk so much for more money? In some cases I don't think it is "greed" per se, but some kind of thrill-seeking compulsion. I'm playing armchair analyst but I suspect some people "get off" on cheating and getting away with it and it's not laways about the money.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#4)
    by scarshapedstar on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 09:08:21 AM EST
    I'm playing armchair analyst but I suspect some people "get off" on cheating and getting away with it and it's not always about the money.

    Take it away, Karl...


    I thought you lawyers (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 10:20:24 AM EST
    believed in innocent until proven guilty.



    Claw (none / 0) (#6)
    by Claw on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 10:37:59 AM EST
    I've always been able to wrap my head around the crazy things lawyers sometimes do when suffering from drug/alcohol addiction or similar "loss of control" diseases, but things like this never cease to leave me dumbfounded.  On what planet is it a good idea to try to bribe a federal judge?  I think deconstructionist's analysis is probably correct; it's some kind of insanely intense thrill seeking coupled with an absolute contempt for the law...but still...mind boggling.

    The case (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Nov 29, 2007 at 09:30:59 PM EST
    he allegedly tried to bribe the judge on was one in which his law firm was the defendant. So it may have been for self-preservation, not the money.

    It was a CIVIL case (none / 0) (#8)
    by Deconstructionist on Fri Nov 30, 2007 at 01:01:01 PM EST
     his firm and another lawyer were disputing the splitting of fees from the underlying litigation in which both provided representation. the other lawyer wanted more money than Scruggs wanted him to get, so the other lawyer sued for money. Scruggs, et al are accused of bribing the judge to make a favorable ruling regarding the splitting of the fees.