WLBT News has obtained once secret federal grand jury testimony of former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters revealing his role in a judicial corruption case that eventually brought down millionaire lawyer Dickie Scruggs, a Judge and rocked the judicial system in Mississippi.
Hundreds of pages of documents were unsealed including the sworn deposition of former U.S. Senator Trent Lott.
Scruggs himself requested the court open the sealed testimony and the government made no objection. The never before publicly seen document reveals the criminal wrongdoing between Peters, a once powerful prosecutor and his longtime friend Judge Bobby DeLaughter. The testimony was given before a federal grand jury in October 2008.
At stake a 15 million dollars in legal fees from asbestos litigation. Peters exposed Judge DeLaughters desire to get appointed to a federal judgeship. Peters said Senator Trent Lott called DeLaughter, and said "His sorry ass brother in law (Scruggs) let him know DeLaughters interest in the federal judgeship. A call Peters testified he naturally assumed would be to let Judge DeLaughter know that Scruggs was helping him get a judgeship. Scruggs is married to Lott's sister.
Peters also confessed under oath that he facilitated communications between his longtime friend former Assistant District Attorney and the Scruggs legal team. Peters said DeLaughter sent word back to the Scruggs legal team through him, specifically telling Scruggs what they needed to do to win the case, quote "If they want me to rule in their favor they're going to need to find something else." Peters testified it was covert, behind the scenes. Even more telling, Peters confessed he was not hired to pick the jury but to influence Bobby DeLaughter.
And he was paid handsomely for manipulating the case in Scruggs favor, first 50- thousand cash in a sealed envelope during a meeting with Joey Langston and Steve Patterson. Later, Peters received another 950-thousand dollars. When the legal house of cards came crumbling down, Peters turned over to the government just a fraction of that amount saying he had lost most of it in the stock market.
When asked about his role in the downfall of DeLaughter Peters said he felt bad, adding "You don't know how close I've come to suicide because of this."
A tale of greed and corruption. The only one to beat the rap, Ed Peters, who sold out his best friend and walked away with immunity from prosecution.
Scruggs was serving five years for conspiring to bribe another judge when he pleaded guilty to honest services fraud in the DeLaughter case in 2009. The plea deal added two years to Scruggs' sentence. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of honest services laws, and Scruggs says that means he's innocent of a crime to which he pleaded guilty. Scruggs now says he offered DeLaughter nothing of value and only endorsed DeLaughter's candidacy for a judgeship.
DeLaughter was convicted in 2009 for lying to the FBI about so-called ex parte communications, or discussions about cases outside of court, and sentenced to 18 months.
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