Federal prosecutors: zero tolerance for meddling with courts - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Kontji Anthony

Federal prosecutors: zero tolerance for meddling with courts

Federal prosecutors said Thursday that the indictment of a high profile Mississippi plaintiffs attorney for judicial bribery shows the government will not tolerate attempts to manipulate the courts.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee spoke at an Oxford news conference one day after Richard "Dickie" Scruggs was in federal court in Oxford answering an indictment that accused him of conspiring to bribe a judge to rule in his favor.

"Attempted bribery of a Circuit Judge strikes at the heart of our judicial system," Greenlee said.

The indictment accuses Scruggs of conspiring to pay a judge $50,000 to rule in his favor in a lawsuit brought by other attorneys who sought fees for work on Katrina insurance litigation.

Scruggs made millions from helping negotiate a multibillion dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the 1990s. He now represents hundreds of Mississippi homeowners after Hurricane Katrina.

The indictment said Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey reported the "bribery overture" to federal authorities and agreed to assist investigators in an "undercover capacity."

"This case today should serve as a reminder that allegations of public corruption will not be tolerated in the state of Mississippi," said FBI Special Agent Frederick Brink.

Greenlee said Lackey would not be charged, adding Lackey came to federal investigators within days of first being approached in March.

Scruggs was indicted along with three other attorneys, including his son, who is his law partner, and a former Mississippi auditor. They face charges including one count of defrauding the federal government and two counts of wire fraud.

Greenlee said the resignation announcement earlier this week of U.S. Senator Trent Lott, who is Scruggs' brother-in-law, had no relation to the case.

"There's absolutely no connection, to my knowledge," he said. "I think this surprised Senator Lott, as it did a lot of other people."

If convicted, each defendant could spend up to 75 years in prison.

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