Paul Quinn’s Weblog

News from Ole Miss and Oxford

Scruggs news: co-conspirator says too much money

Posted by paulquinn on June 12, 2008

Sideny Backstrom has objected to the pre-sentencing report written by U.S. probation services. An objection filed Thursday said there is no way for Judge Neal Biggers to know how much money, if any, the Scruggs Law Firm, and those guilty of attempted bribery, stood to gain.

The Clarion-Ledger ran an AP story Thursday which said:

“Backstrom also objects to the report’s conclusion that the defendants’ “net benefit” from bribing Lackey was $5.3 million — or one-fifth of the $26.5 million in fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuits.

Other lawyers who had worked with Scruggs on the settlement sued him for a greater share of the fees. Prosecutors claim Scruggs, his son, Backstrom and Balducci conspired to pay Lackey $40,000 in exchange for an order that would have sent that lawsuit to arbitration.
Backstrom argues that $40,000, not $5.3 million, is the amount that U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers should use to calculate a sentence in the criminal case.
“It does seem a bit harsh that they have chosen the amount of the dispute rather than the amount of the bribe,” said Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who reviewed the probation officials’ report.
Ciolino said the judge isn’t bound by the report’s conclusions or the sentencing guidelines, but he added, “As a practical matter, they still do follow them.”
The bribe was an attempt to have the case sent to arbitration, not for a ruling in how to split the $26.5 million. The difference between the two is huge when a judge looks at the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which are rules a judge generally follow when sentencing someone. There hasn’t been a response filed by the govt.

I imagine if the judges agrees with Backstrom, Dickie Scruggs, Tim Balducci, and Steve Patterson would all benefit. Scruggs son Zach pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of not reporting the illeagal activity.

Other issues at stake our weather Backstrom acted in a managerial role by directing bag-man Balducci during the course of the bribe. Backstrom is saying he was a go between and never told Balducci what to do.

The conents of the actual pre-sentence report hasn’t been made public.

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