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What Ed Peters said about the judicial appointment in the grand jury

In the hearing this week in Scruggs II, Ed Peters’s grand  jury testimony and one of his four FBI interview statements were placed in evidence in lieu of his testimony. [1]. The interview memo is from an interview of 12/11/07, the day before DeLaughter’s first interview with the F.B.I. and , and would be Peters’s first statement to them.[2] I’ll post later about what I see in that one.

I did an earlier post about the grand jury testimony (and the 9/9/08 FBI interview notes) that summarized them.  While the 9/9/08 interview has lots to say about the judicial appointment,[3]. it’s not in evidence in the hearing this week, and so I won’t focus on in here other than in the footnote.   This post focuses on what’s in evidence  from the grand jury testimony, particularly on the judicial appointment issue.

You learn several things from the grand jury testimony (which was on October 21, 2008).

  • Peters remembers the judicial position coming up in the first meeting with Paterson and Langston.  While he remembers them saying there was no linkage with the help on the case, he made clear that, in his mind, help with a judicial position was one of the reasons that DeLaughter was influenced.
  • Peters remembers DeLaughter saying “you won’t believe this” when he called to tell Peters about the call from Trent Lott.  It sounds like he was both surprised and pleased.

The real argument in the hearing was whether DeLaughter got something, the other end of the exchange.  Scruggs made two arguments:  That the help on the judicial appointment and the help on the case weren’t linked, and that the help on the judicial appointment didn’t mean anything.

Peters says he told Scruggs’s team about DeLaughter’s ambition to be a judge.  He believes he told Patterson.  They gave him the impression they would help on the judicial appointment.

I think it was at the same meeting where they shoved the money at me.  At the end of the meeting when it was all over and we were talking about some legal issue that was before the Court, at the end of the meeting I was getting up to leave and I think it was Joey Langston, could have been Patterson, said you mentioned that Bobby was interested in the federal judgeship or that he was up for a magistrate position.  I don’t remember exactly what it was.

This doesn’t have anything to do with the case that’s going on; however, we want you to know that Dickie Scruggs is the brother-in-law of Trent Scruggs, and he will put in a good word for Bobby. Against, it doesn’t have anything to do with this case.

Transcript at 15-16.  While the transcript doesn’t have that second paragraph in quotes, Peters seems to have been quoting Patterson or Langston.  Peters made clear later in the transcript that he wasn’t fooled by the “wink, wink” moment where they say it’s not linked to the case.

At some point, when Peters was on a fishing trip in either the spring or fall in Cocatrie, Louisiana, he got a cell phone call from DeLaughter about the federal judgeship.

[Bobby] said that he had just, something like, you’re not going to believe this or guess what or something like that.  I just received a call from Tent Lott– I’m paraphrasing.  I just received a call from Trent Lott or Senator Lott.  He told me that his quote, sorry ass brother-in-law, end quote had just called him– or not just called him– called him and let him know that he was interested in the judgeship, federal judgeship.  And before they– it was his practice before he placed anybody’s name on the list for a judgeship that he called the person and made sure they were interested in it?”

Transcript at 16-17.  I’m not sure why the court reporter ended this paragraph with a question mark.  Note that DeLaughter expressed surprise (and can we say delight?), saying “you’re not going to believe this… I just received a call from Trent Lott,” and then makes clear Scruggs had called Lott beforehand.  The expression of surprise does not match Lott’s effort to argue that the call would not have meant that much to anyone who received it.

Asked why the Scruggs team had him call, Peters answered:  “I’m not sure that they did had him call.  If they had him call– I have no idea, but if they had him call then I would assume– naturally assume that it would be to let the judge know that Scruggs was helping him get a judgeship.”  Transcript at 17.

Peters acknowledged a judicial position was a thing of value.  Asked, if DeLaughter was not getting money, and if it’s assumed “that he perhaps favored the Scruggs side,” why did he do this:  “My opinion is primarily friendship for me.  Natural inference is also for the judgeship.”  Id. 

Q. Would you agree with me looking back that you were hired not to help pick the jury but to influence Bobby DeLaughter?

A. In hindsight absolutely.

Q. And do you have an opinion as to whether or not you did influence Bobby DeLaughter?

A. I’m sure that I did.

Transcript at 20.

Here’s the full transcript.

____________________

[1]
The FBI memorandum from Peters’s 9/9/08 FBI interview was submitted earlier by Scruggs in this case.  For some reason, instead of using that one again, they used the earlier 12/11/07 interview. The 12/11/07 memo has not previously been available. What that means is that two of his four interviews have not surfaced. Those of us hoping for a complete set may be doomed to disappointment.&#8617

[2]
This statement is a curious document. In the grand jury testimony, it was made clear that Peters was allowed to make extensive corrections, most of which watered-down the impact of what he had to say. I’ve not known of other incidents where witnesses were given this “privilege.” The usual routine would be what happened in Balducci’s interviews when he felt the interview memo was inaccurate: Another interview (with memo) was done that memorialized his corrections. Perhaps with straight-up factual issues, they’d edit the memo, but it seems pretty strange to me to allow the witness to make such corrections.

I would love to hear the experience of others with such corrections issues.

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[3]
Here are some notes about the memo from the 9/9/08 as it pertains to the judicial selection issue. I’m slightly puzzled why the Government didn’t introduce it, because it makes clear the linkage between the judicial position and the improper contact.

Where Peters made changes, I’ve indicated additions by underlining and deletions by strikethrough.

Peters described how he and the Scurggs team took advantage of the ex parte contact with DeLaughter: DeLaughter would take copies of drafts of briefs to DeLaughter, who would tell Peters what his ruling was going to be. If his ruling “was going to be adverse to SCRUGGS, DELAUGHTER would tell PETERS that the SCRUGGS’ team needed legal authority of why DELAUGHTER would not rule against them.”  He acknowledged he realized he was not being hired to work on the case but to influence DeLaughter.  He realized this when he was paid the $50,000 in cash.

Peters stated that he brought up the fact that DELAUGHTER was interested in a federal judgeship. He told the SCRUGGS’ team that he could not attend a meeting with them because he was meeting with some one else who might be able to help DELAUGHTER become a federal judge. STEVE PATTERSON or LANGSTON told PETERS that he wanted PETERS to know that SCRUGGS could obtain would work the assistance of Mississippi United States Senator TRENT LOTT in order to assist DELAUGHTER obtain a federal judgeship. PETERS was very glad to hear this statement. PETERS does not remember exactly when this conversation took place, but did remember that it happened in the early stages of his employment with LANGSTON.

PETERS thought that if DELAUGHTER could ‘help’ SCRUGGS, then SCRUGGS could ‘help’ Scruggs, then SCRUGGS could ‘help’ DELAUGHTER. PETERS stated that DELAUGHTER’s ‘help’ to SCRUGGS would consist of favorable treatment. Pased upon PETERS conversation with DELAUGHTER, PETERS believes that DELAUGHTER understood this agreement.

PETERS stated that he facilitated communication between SCRUGGS and DELAUGHTER. never talked to Scruggs

PETERS told DELAUGHTER about the conversation he had with either PATTERSON or LANGSTON. DELAUGHTER stated that it was good, but that it would not decide [sic] the case. Even though DELAUGHTER knew that PETERS was working for LANGSTON, PETERS did not tell him about his reverse contingency fee plan.

Sometime later, PETERS expressed to DELAUGHTER that SCRUGGS was not doing enough to help DELAUGHTER obtain a federal judge position. When ever PETERS asked PATTERSON about current vacant federal judge positions, PATTERSON would tell PETERS that DELAUGHTER would get the next one. Once PATTERSON stated that the “Turk” was going to get the current judgeship. Once he stated that the current judgeship was going to be determined by Mississippi United States Senator THAD COCHRAN. PETERS always passed this information from PATTERSON on to DELAUGHTER.

This paragraph is referring to the judicial appointment that went to Judge Ozerden.

The next paragraph has a timing problem– everyone agrees that the call from Lott occurred in March of 06, months before the trial in Wilson v. Scruggs.  Probably for that reason, someone has written a question mark beside it.

Some time after the WILSON VS. SCRUGGS trial, PETERS was fishing in Cocatrie, Louisiana when he received a telephone call from DELAUGHTER. DELAUGHTER stated that he had received a telephone call from LOTT. PETERS had no advance warning that LOTT was going to call DELAUGHTER.

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