Three On Your Side Investigates: Judicial Bribery-Attorneys' Guilty Plea - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 01/18/08

Three On Your Side Investigates: Judicial Bribery-Attorneys' Guilty Plea

By Marsha Thompson

There is new information in a judicial bribery scandal. Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter has recused himself from hearing a new case brought by powerful plaintiffs attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs. 

The Judge had presided over a lawsuit that Scruggs and other lawyers filed against several companies on behalf of a man who said he was exposed to toxic fumes from welding equipment.

On January 4, he recused himself from the case "in order to avoid even the appearance of any impropriety," court records show.

Concerning a previous lawsuit. We obtained attorney Joey Langston's information docket. A plea of guilty to conspiring to bribe Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

Langston admits he, Timothy Balducci and former Auditor Steve Patterson paid 50-thousand dollars in up front cash to former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters. The high powered attorney claims they were acting on behalf of Oxford attorney Dickie Scruggs.

In 2005, Scruggs was in a court battle over asbestos legal fees. It was case involving 15 million dollars in disputed legal fees, Wilson versus Scruggs was assigned to Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

Delaughter did not return our phone calls. The judge was not in court or in his office at the courthouse Friday.

The document alleges Peters services were retained to influence his longtime personal friend Judge DeLaughter. Peters allegedly pocketed an additional 950-thousand for his services according to Langston's plea. One million in all.

Court documents show Langston, Peters and former State Auditor Steve Patterson split 3- million that Scruggs saved as a result of rulings in favor of Scruggs by Judge DeLaughter.

The court documents states, after hiring Peters, Langston  and Timothy Balducci and Steve Patterson were in regular contact either by phone or by facsimile concerning the case; and the three traveled regularly from the Northern District of Mississippi to Jackson, to meet with Peters in person and discuss issues concerning the Wilson litigation.

It further states, While Peters was not fully cognizant of the issues surrounding the litigation, he would relay whatever information he received from Langston, Balducci, and Patterson to Judge DeLaughter before any of this information was filed with the Court. 

In at least one instance, Judge DeLaughter e-mailed a rough draft of an opinion he planned to enter to Peters.  And Langston and Balducci and Patterson would be able to see it before any filed, final version was filed.

Allegations suggest the bait, was a federal appointment. The government says Langston and Scruggs were aware DeLaughter was interested in a federal judgeship. Scruggs is the brother-in-law of former Senator Trent Lott, (R)-Miss., whose duties included recommending nominees for federal judgeships. In the end, that high ranking judicial post, was not delivered.  

Dickie Scruggs, Ed Peters, Judge Bobby DeLaughter have not been charged with anything relating to Langston's allegations against DeLaughter.

Judge DeLaughter has told reporters he never accepted a bribe.

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