I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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December, 2007: What went through folks minds

In November, 2007, Tim Balducci decided to come clean, and told the prosecutors that Jones v. Scruggs had not been his only rodeo.  He told the prosecutors that there was this other case in Jackson involving Scruggs where he’d been directly involved in the corruption of Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

So December of 2007 was the month for come-to-Jesus moments for a big class of characters.  It’s interesting to review the bidding:

  • Ed Peters:  He was the intermediary between Judge DeLaughter and the conspiracy.  It seems pretty clear that he came in very, very early, in the first two weeks of December.  I’m not certain whether it was after or before Judge DeLaughter’s first interview– the one that was the subject of his obstruction of justice charge– but it’s clear he came in before the second one.  And, coming in so speedily (beating everyone but Tim Balducci in the door), he got the best deal.  Sorry, Tim, but when Satan incarnate comes through the door, particularly early, he apparently gets the best deal of all.  So Ed Peters (obviously past ready to retire– how long was he D.A.?– and getting to keep that state retirement, plus whatever else he’d extorted here and there.  Lets just go to the fish camp!) gets to walk, giving up only that law license (he’s retired, right? gone fishing), $450K of that million dollar fee, and, uh, bragging rights.  But no jail for him!
  • Bobby DeLaughter: It seems to me he came in third (after Peters and Balducci) and wasn’t really willing to give anything up (he couldn’t really help with Scruggs, who he didn’t directly contact), and he still seemed committed to the bitter end to arguing he corretly ruled.  So, other than Scruggs, he’s the obviously top target in this prosecution.  What’s he going to do?  What he did do was wait until he was indicted and cut a pretty good deal, admitting he lied to the FBI and taking 18 months and the surrender of his judicial position and (ultimately) law license.
  • Joey Langston: He had jumped in to represent Dickie Scruggs on the prosecution in the Jones case.  Was this a firewall?  (seems so to me, and I’ve heard rumors of tension between him and his, uh, real criminal defense lawyer John Keker that pretty much confirms it).  A matter of days later, his office was searched, and then, early in January, he up and pleads guilty to a deal that involved cooperating.  That obviously did not happen instantaneously, and, given some days lost at Christmas, really makes one wonder what happened when.  And not only was he representing Scruggs– he turned up having a lawyer who had represented Scruggs’s son.  And got a conflicts waiver from Scruggs’s son one day so he could represent another client (Joey, turned stool pigeon) the next day in a guilty plea.   So when did Joey Langston decide to come in?  Joey stood in front of Scruggs’s office the day of the search, before Scruggs was even arrested.  Was Joey already thinking self protection at that moment?  And when did he decide to hire his own lawyer, who just happened to represent Zach Scruggs.  Snake handling is dangerous business.
  • Trent Lott: He had just resigned to spend more time with his family, or God told him to, or something.  Monday– he resigned, Tuesday– brother-in-law gets search.  Wednesday– brother-in-law gets indicted.  Just coincidence, so let’s move on:  There’s some serious questions still floating out there about what he said (both early and then in December) about what he might have done when Dickie Scruggs asked.  This is one of the most important unanswered questions in the case.  But he must have had a serious come-to-Jesus moment in December, and I think more will emerge about that.
  • Steve Patterson:  Of course keeps his role as the clown act here– it was obvious to everyone in December that any sentient being in his shoes would be thinking deal, but not until everything possible had gone wrong in January— both his old partner Tim and his old partner Joey cut a deal– did he think deal, when it was too late to do him any good.

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