This morning, Bobby DeLaughter submitted his resignation to Governor Barbour as a circuit judge. This afternoon, he entered a guilty plea to obstruction of justice under a plea agreement that (if the judge accepts it) puts him in jail for 18 months and does not require that he cooperate.
The real drama at the guilty plea was over the factual basis the government offered. In it, the government outlined the extensive nature of Peters contact with DeLaughter, and explicitly stated that Peters would testify that DeLaughter understood that Scruggs would help DeLaughter get a position on the federal bench in return for DeLaughter’s rulings in the case. There was also a detailed description of the circumstances of DeLaughter’s FBI interview, when he stated that he’d only talked to Peters about the case twice, on the telephone, and therfore mislead the FBI about dozens of meetings with Peters and their importance to the case. DeLaughter’s lawyer, Tom Durkin, vigorously objected to the parts of the government’s factual basis that described Peters’s corrupt influence of DeLaughter, stating that DeLaughter admitted to the false statement but not to the honest services charges. This continued until Bob Norman responded that “If the defense wants a trial, we will give them a trial.” Judge Davidson cut through the tangle by asking Durkin and his client to admit the essential elements of the obstruction of justice charge, which they did.
DeLaughter plead to obstruction of justice– lying to the FBI– and has a binding plea agreement with an agreed upon sentence of 18 months. Judge Davidson will read the presentence report and make an announcement in open court about whether he accepts the agreement and therefore the setnence.
The court room was relatively full. Roberts Wilson sat inside the bar, and sat where he was as close as a non-participant could place himself to defense table– where DeLaughter could not escape seeing him. Charlie Merkel, Vickie Slater, and others from that case where there, as where Scruggs’s local criminal lawyer, and civil lawyer, Cal Mayo. Tony Farese was there. Representing the government was Bob Norman, Chad Lamar, and the head special agent for the FBI in Mississippi, Fred Brink.
More details about this later…