Four Years for Two Scruggs Cohorts
OXFORD, Miss. A former Mississippi state auditor and a disbarred lawyer were each sentenced to two years in federal prison Friday for their roles in a judicial bribery scheme that toppled famed tobacco litigator Richard "Dickie" Scruggs.
Scruggs had previously pleaded guilty to charges involving schemes to bribe two different judges. He is serving a
Former Mississippi Auditor Steve Patterson and disbarred attorney Timothy Balducci were involved in a conspiracy to bribe a judge in a dispute between Scruggs and other lawyers over
Patterson was fined $150,000 and given a
It was revealed in court Patterson had been receiving $80,000 a month in payments from the 1990s tobacco litigation. Scruggs was the chief architect of the tobacco settlements and earned more than
Patterson, who is not an attorney, resigned as auditor in 1996 after lying to avoid paying taxes on a car tag.
Balducci was his partner in a New Albany firm. He was caught delivering cash in 2007 to Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey, who went undercover for the FBI. Caught in the act, Balducci quickly turned on his friends and associates.
This is how prosecutors describe the conspiracy: Balducci approached the judge, a friend and mentor, with hopes of persuading him to rule in Scruggs' favor. But Lackey, the prosecutors said, told the FBI about a bribe "overture" and agents set up surveillance.
Eventually Balducci delivered several cash payments totaling $40,000, prosecutors said, and after the final delivery, the FBI arrested Balducci. He agreed to cooperate and was fitted with a wire. He then went to Scruggs' Oxford office and said the judge wanted $10,000 more and recorded Scruggs and others discussing a proposed offer, according to officials.
That led to guilty pleas from Scruggs, his son, Zach, partner Sidney Backstrom and Patterson. Then Balducci pointed investigators to other alleged crimes, authorities said. Before long the FBI raided the office of Scruggs' lawyer, who was also Balducci's former law partner, Joey Langston of Booneville.
Langston eventually pleaded guilty to trying to influence another judge, Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter, on Scruggs' behalf. DeLaughter was charged this week with five counts related to the alleged scheme.
DeLaughter was allegedly enticed to rule in Scruggs' favor in an asbestos fees dispute.
Copyright 2009, The Associated Press