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12-10-07: Bobby DeLaughter misleads the FBI but then thinks better of it

You might want to read this chronology before reading this post.

Two FBI interview memos from Bobby DeLaughter were placed in evidence in the hearing.  With DeLaughter not testifying, it is not clear to me the evidentiary import of these documents.  Whatever that may be, there are some statements in the second one that do not help Scruggs’s side a bit and raise real questions in my mind why they were submitted.

DeLaughter was interviewed in his chambers in Raymond on December 10th, the day of the search of Langston’s office and the day before Peters was interviewed.

He described taking the Wilson case after being appointed to replace Judge Hilburn, who “signed a number of orders” in the case just before leaving the bench and “indicated he did not want to leave DELAUGHTER to resolve issues he had already been handling.”  He described the history of the use of a special master case, and the constructive trust theory Wilson was asserting on the tobacco fees.  He described the settlement conference, and that the case settled during voir dire.

He was asked about Peters’s involvement:

He advised that soon after Bill Kirksey entered an appearance in the Wilson case he was telephonically contacted by Peters.  Peters stated that he had received a telephone call from Joey Langston asking if he (Langston) should be concerned about Kirksey and DELAUGHTER.  Kirksey and DELAUGHTER are former law partners.  DELAUGHTER advised Peters that his former association with Kirksey would have no effect on him and he would do his best to follow the law.  He told Peters that he would recuse himself from the case if asked or if a motion was filed. …DELAUGHTER recalled a second telephone call from Peters advising him that he (Peters) had conveyed the information regarding Kirksey to Joey Langston.  Langston still voiced concerns about DELAUGHTER being fair with the case. …

DeLaughter stated that, during the pretrial period, a magistrate position came open, which Peters tried to help DeLaughter get.  DeLaughter was a candidate but turned down.

Up to this point, DeLaughter was pretty much succeeding in not falling through the thin ice.  But he went a couple of steps too far.

Langston told Peters “We can help with this,” referring to the Magistrate position.  DELAUGHTER did not know how Langston could help in that the position was selected by a group of District Judges.

Yeah, lets swap things around a bit– make the earlier magistrate campaign into the one here, so the obvious thing that would occur to anyone– that this involved Scruggs using that brother-in-law connection– just would not come to mind.  I mean, what could Langston do to get to a bunch of federal district judges?  This is immediately followed by a nice bit of protesting too much:

He instructed Peters to “make damn sure to them that there would be no quid pro quo.”

Damn straight.

He advised he would not show favoritism.

Just advanced copies of orders and editing suggestion on drafts of pleadings.  But lets not bring that up  right now.

He never spoke regarding the Wilson case after the above identified calls.

This would be DeLaughter’s biggest oops.

DELAUGHTER was asked why Langston would call Peters regarding the Wilson case.  He advised that he did not know why, however he and Peters worked together for many years and are good friends.

He said he had one other call from Peters “during the Magistrate process which was only related to the process and procedures.”

I am not sure what that means.

At the end of the interview, he was asked if he received any money from anyone for decisions in the Wilson case and said he had “absolutely… not” and was never offered any during his career for a decision in a case.

So by this point he had lied about the number of and content of conversations with Peters about the case, and done his best to mislead the agents about the quest for a judicial position through Dickie Scruggs’s influence or help.

Thereafter, having had the benefit of counsel, he decided that discretion called for an attempt to revise and extend his remarks, and he scheduled another meeting with the agents, along with his lawyer, Cynthia Speetjens.  In addition to the FBI, also present were Bob Norman, Tom Dawson, and David Sanders from the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Tim Kelly from the Justice Department Office of Public Integrity.  They met in the US Attorney’s office in Oxford.

DeLaughter had a real dilemma here.  As a sitting judge, he probably was the only person in this circle who was as big or bigger target than Dick Scruggs.  There was little chance of working out a favorable deal for him.  I’m sure he was fully aware he’d talked his way into deeper trouble.  Could talking some more help?

Here’s that first FBI interview memo.

 

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