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Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Scruggs video after second guilty plea

Posted by paulquinn on February 11, 2009

A Youtube video of Richard Dickie Scruggs leaving the courthouse in an oraange jump-suit after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to an additional 7 years.  The Scruggs youtube video also shows excerpts from a press conferance with U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, and FBI Assisstant Special Agent Wilfred Rattigan. 

In my question regarding immunity, I have heard one of the suspects in “Scruggs II” was offered an immunity deal to talk about his role in the bribe. 


Posted in bribing, conspiracy, Crime, Delaughter, Dickie Scruggs, Journalism, Judge Lackey, Mississippi, Ole Miss, Scruggs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Crime, Journalism, Scruggs, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Scruggs case puts Miss. in national spotlight

Posted by paulquinn on June 12, 2008

The Dickie Scruggs Saga didn’t start in Nov. 2007 when he and five others were indicted on conspiracy charges, headlines bearing Scruggs name are almost a past-time in Mississippi. Asbestos, tobacco, and Katrina all put Scruggs in the paper; now the bribe and the famed attorney’s methods are making headlines nationwide.

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal ran an anti-Jim Hood, Mississippi attorney general, editorial about Hoods accepting State Farm’s Katrina related files from Scruggs, who obtained the files from State Farm insider’s Cori and Kerri Rigsby. The Rigsby’s worked for insurance adjuster E.A. Renfroe a company contracted by State Farm to handle claims on coastal Mississippi post-Katrina.

The editorial is referring to a ruling by federal Judge William Acker costing Scruggs and the Rigsby’s $65,000. The ruling was covered by the WSJ (again), USA Today, and at least 100 more news websites and blogs.

In an article written by Peter Boyer, appearing in the May 19 edition of The New Yorker, Boyer writes 18 pages outlining Scruggs affiliation with Ole Miss, his past lawsuits, and the bribe attempt of Judge Lackey. Here is a teaser, the full story is only obtainable in print form or with subscription to The New Yorker.

When the sentencing date for Scruggs and two others was announced AP stories appeared on CNN and Forbes‘s Website.

The day Scruggs pleaded guilty stories were written by the New York Times, The LA Times, and ABC news.

Also, on the day he pleaded guilty The Wall Street Journal wrote several thousand words pertaining to the bribe and other Scruggs issues, it was released prior to Scruggs pleading guilty. The story can only be seen with an online subscription. Another teaser is on their website.

Two months after the indictment Nelson Schwartz, for the New York Times, wrote an extended feature outlining the saga of Scruggs up until that point.

When Scruggs was indicted for attempting to bribe Lackey the NY Times had the story, along with every other major newspaper in the country. Several days later, when Hillary Clinton cancelled a fundraiser at Scruggs house, New York magazine wrote about Clinton’s dilemma.

Before the bribe attempt Scruggs was in the media some but not like after November 28. Scruggs made national headlines when he won billions of dollars for Mississippi when he beat big tobacco. PBS’s Frontline had an interview with Scruggs about the lawsuit; the movie The Insider also portrayed the fight with tobacco.

There is the soon to come book being written by veteran reporter and Ole Miss Professor Curtis Wilkie.

Scruggs actions have been written about for almost 20 years, some good some bad. My only hope is Mississippi’s national attention is portrayed accuartley when the presidential debate happens in September.

Posted in Crime, Dickie Scruggs, Journalism, Mississippi, New York Times, Ole Miss, Presidential debate | Leave a Comment »

Ole Miss’s racial past documented

Posted by paulquinn on June 10, 2008

Ole Miss deals with race almost every year. Last semester it was rumble in the circle, when six female student’s escalating dispute resulted in a box cutter fight captured on youtube.

Here is a comment left on the DM’s story. Stan Jones wrote:

” As a proud Ole Miss alum, let me be the first to say way to represent our fine institution with class and grace….

They may do this type of garbage at Memphis State or at Alcorn, but it has no place here. A boxcutter??…hope they stick you under the jail?

Alcorn State and Memphis State are predominately black schools

In fall 2007 The DM’s Nicole Spinuzzi wrote about freshman Jeremiah Taylor being pushed down the stairs of the Deke house after being told there was a “racial rush list.”

Deke’s were eventually suspended.

While other racial incidents have happened since 2002, this next story, which appeared in Campus Report, a news service where “articles focus on three issues: the exploitation of the classroom or university resources to indoctrinate students; discrimination against students, faculty or administrators based on political or academic beliefs; and campus violations of free speech,” is an interesting look at what happened when several black students wrote racial slurs on some dorm room doors.

Sara Russo writes:

“When obscene and racist slurs were found scrawled on the dormitory doors of several black students at the University of Mississippi, administrators at the school wasted no time convening tolerance meetings and suggesting that federal hate crimes charges might be brought against the perpetrators. The national news media rushed to cover the story. One month later, when it was discovered that the graffiti artists were three black students, the University failed to file criminal charges against the culprits and penalized them with probation, community service, and research papers.”

The list could go on but I don’t want to be here all day.

Posted in Crime, Journalism, Ole Miss | Leave a Comment »

Mississippi right choice for Presidential Debate

Posted by paulquinn on June 10, 2008

While the Obama and McCain are out searching for the best vice president, Ole Miss and Oxford are prepping for the upcoming debate. 

Construction on University has become a headache but is looking good, new restaurants are opening up on the square, and journalist have visited to see how their team will cover Ole Miss’ historic weekend. 

I know the Daily Mississippian is thinking of story ideas and acquiring press passes for the few (if even) reporters and editors selected for on sight coverage (I have had my fingers crossed since the announcement was made in November 2007).

Ole Miss was selected as the first of three debates, of course we were all pumped when it happened, however the announcement made at least one city furious – New Orleans. The New York Time reports the story in November.  

Many in New Orleans were stung by the decision and said the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which chooses the sites for the general-election debates, had unfairly sent a signal that New Orleans was still not ready for prime time. And they said politics had been at play because Republicans in particular did not want to have to confront the severe challenges that New Orleans poses.

“Members of the Commission on Presidential Debates continue to come up with preposterous excuses — some of them contradictory — as to why they snubbed New Orleans as a debate site,” an editorial in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans said yesterday. “No wonder New Orleanians think the process was rigged and three presidential candidates have criticized the decision.”

“The sense of outrage in New Orleans is very significant, from the state leadership to government to business,” said Arnold Fielkow, president of the City Council and former executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints. “We feel a wrong has been done, and we hope it will be corrected.”

The frustration in New Orleans was fueled by what many saw as a secretive process that turned its back on a chance to provide an eye-opening view of difficult issues that they want the candidates, and the nation, to address.

Sorry to say New Orleans but your not the only city in this country with problems.  Ole Miss has been recovering from our turbulent past for a lifetime, we still have some race issues and academic questions (easy to get in, low rankings for many  schools and Departments) but we are certainly “up with the times.” 

And the debate will only help address our remaining problems, quit being selfish and give us a break.

In the past 10 years Ole Miss has progressed more than the 100 years before, and its our time to prove to any doubters out there we aren’t as bad as we once were. (I still feel there are race issues on campus, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t improved ten-fold since even the 1980’s).

The historic significance of having the first major party black canidate here debating has also added symbolism to the Sept. 26 debate that NOLA just couldn’t have.

NOLA will still be recovering and dealing with Katrina (and new possible storms) in four years, but Ole Miss has come along way since 1960’s. Despite the racism I have seen (from NOLA natives as much as anyone) and written about it’s time for us to showcase what we stand for today.

One last time: you are not the all important Mecca of the world people should always be thinking about, I think history speaks for itself in why Oxford is a better choice than New Orleans.

Here is a link to everything Ole Miss presidential debate. Please go and explore this website. 



Posted in Journalism, New Orleans, New York Times, Ole Miss, Presidential debate | 2 Comments »

Mississippi Mud- A book review

Posted by paulquinn on June 7, 2008

*Contains no “spoiler” only plot hints made obvious by the author from the start of his book*

When a Biloxi judge and his mayoral candidate wife were killed in the 1980’s the Mississippi Gulf Coast was in the clutches of one of the worst mafias to grace our United States; or, at least that’s how award winning author Edward Humes portrays the Dixie Mafia in his 1994 masterpiece Mississippi Mud.

Humes’ non-fiction tale reads more like a James Lee Burke murder mystery than a factual account from the Pulitzer Prize winning author and reporter. Mississippi Mud is a serious whodunnit mystery eventually leading to arrests of Biloxi’s most well-known and liked men.  Humes writes about the last co-conspirator to go down in a final online chapter.

The book follows the life of orphaned daughter, Lynne Sposito, who turned investigator as she tracked down her parent’s murderers, receiving death threats and dealing with troubled teenagers along the way.

Understanding why Sposito’s parents were killed is essential to figuring out who killed the former criminal defense lawyer turned judge and his wife. Both lived lives conducive to making enemies.  

A picture of Biloxi and its seedy underworld where gambling, prostitution, drug-deals, and murder-for-hires occur while the police turn blind eyes for the right price, is painted by Humes in the second book of his 325 page four-part page turner. 

A career criminal who couldn’t catch a break on the outside manages to make millions of dollars scamming unsuspecting homosexuals from inside Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana. The why, the how, and the criminal’s defense in court warrant a full length novel; however, the book is a most scandalous murder mystery with twists and turns that don’t end untill the final online chapter.

How does every crime drama end? In court. And in true dramatic form the murder case against five co-conspirators unfolds at the end of Mississippi Mud. Old-fashion, high-priced Mississippi defense attorneys versus the Federal Government, who were determined they couldn’t win the unprecedented, seemingly outlandish case.   

If you’re wary Mississippi Mud will only entertain us “Mississippi folk” you’ll miss out on a fascinating enjoyable read any crime novel reader-mystery scandal solver-mafia lover-court room drama expert-southern history buff-aspiring investigative journalist would love.  

Posted in Biloxi, Book review, Crime, Dixie Mafia, Edward Humes, Journalism, Mississippi Mud | Leave a Comment »

UPDATE: Shep Smith speech- Updated

Posted by paulquinn on May 10, 2008

Former Ole Miss student and Fox News anchor Shepard Smith gave his first ever commencement speech this morning. I felt like sleeping in a little (finally!) and missed it. Luckily some buddies saw the speech, and a email from the UM PR department have told me what Smith discussed.

I recently posted maybe Smith wasn’t the best choice simply because he didn’t graduate. Apparently he wore a doctors robe for his graduation day garb, “but he made a big deal about being a dropout,” Ole Miss student in attendance Lindsey Phillips told me. Phillips also said “he just talked about how he wished he hadn’t and how it was strange that a dropout was talking at graduation, as The Dm pointed out.”

The press release focused on different aspects of the speech, which I’ll call “10 seconds.” There was a brief mention of Smith not graduating.

“In a speech punctuated with rah-rah enthusiasm for Ole Miss and his home state, Smith acknowledged that he left the university a few credit hours short of graduation, but credited the “push this amazing place gave me” for his success.”

I (like the DM) hope none of the graduates felt their degree was being undermined by the university because they picked a dropout to honor them

Another friend of mine and her family said they loved the speech, they couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. From what I can gather it was about how life can change quickly and people should be ready for whatever happens.

“There will be moments for which you cannot prepare, but moments for which you must be ready,” said Smith, speaking at the university’s 155th commencement. “When they come, you’ll have a choice: you can be beaten back, you can be frightened or you can rise to meet those moments.”

The press release also quoted Smith saying:

“On a normal day, 10 seconds later, a loved one can drop to a knee and say those words you so wanted to hear, but now you can’t believe it’s happening,” he said. “On a normal day, 10 seconds later, the phone can ring and that job is there halfway across the country. … Ten seconds later, Tyree can can catch a pass between his hand and his helmet – the great escape can happen, and our guy can be the Super Bowl MVP.
“On a normal day, with a perfect blue sky on a beautiful September morning, 10 seconds later, you look up and the biggest building you’ve ever been in is on fire. And there’s about to be a new normal.”

Probably a pretty good speech from what I can tell, but I’ll never know I wasn’t there.


Here is a hilarious NYtimes story from 2004 that discusses Smith’s style.

This is just one sentences that made me laugh out loud.

Jay Wallace, Mr. Smith’s producer, said he wants the program to seem perpetually as if it might veer out of control. “I want it to be like a train that’s about to come off the tracks,” he likes to say.

Posted in Journalism, Ole Miss | 2 Comments »

UPDATE: The DM and OPD come to understanding

Posted by paulquinn on May 7, 2008

Yesterday I posted about Oxford Police asking for a statement or a copy of DM reporter Victoria Howell’s notes regarding a story she wrote.

Since my post the OPD lieutenant trying to get information has been informed of our attorney’s advice. He was not surprised and even expected to be told Howell would have to be subpoenaed before any information could be handed over.

He mentioned the idea of an “off the record” conversation with Howell, however the information OPD wants Howell does not have. When I asked him what kind of “off-the-record” information OPD wanted he said, “Just who we might need to go talk to.”

Howell could not get a hold of anybody else who knew anything so he let the “off-the-record” idea rest.

“Depends on what we can put together without her,” was the lieutenant’s response when I inquired if they still planned to subpoena Howell, “tell Victoria she doesn’t need to worry at this point.” (emphasis mine)

Then we talked about how The DM picked up the story. I explained rumors around campus of Ole Miss basketball player Brandi Tipton getting injured in a late night car crash was what tipped us off. He said that made sense and that was that.

It seems for now OPD will continue their investigation into O’ Conner but, will back off Howell. O’ Conner just said he hit Tipton late one night on his way home, then was arrested after he and Tipton got into it at the hospital.

Hopefully OPD’s investigation doesn’t require Howell’s testimony but, we won’t know anything for a while now.

Posted in Crime, Journalism, Ole Miss | 3 Comments »

Ole Miss prof on NewsHour

Posted by paulquinn on May 7, 2008

Ole Miss Sociology and African American professor Kirk A. Johnson will be part of a discussion about race and the presidential campaigns tonight (May 7) at 6 p.m. on the public broadcast news show NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

“The ‘NewsHour’ invited me to participate in a discussion on race and the presidential campaign,” Johnson said. “While I have diverse experiences on race, mass media and minority health, I am deeply honored to participate in this dialogue.”

NewsHour is one of the most respected news publications in the country.

“NewsHour with Jim Lehrer airs five nights a week on more than 315 Public Broadcasting Service stations across the country and is also available online, via public radio in select markets and podcast. The program is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in association with WETA in Washington, D.C., and Thirteen/WNET New York.”

On September 26 Ole Miss will host the first presidential debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Over 3,000 journalist are expected to be at The Ford Center the night of the debate.

As the university gears up for the event the The Daily Mississippian reports the Presidential Debate Student Steering Committee is looking over student ideas for the upcoming event.

“The student events range from hosting a ball, to welcoming journalists and dignitaries to town, to sponsoring a summer book club featuring the candidates’ autobiographies,” McGraw said. “We’re also working to bring ‘The Daily Show’ or ‘The Colbert Report’ to campus before the debate, host a televised town hall forum for college students across the country and hold a festival in the Grove that would feature a series of speakers and musical acts. The students are enthusiastic.”

Hopefully the steering committee is able to pull of some of the ideas mentioned, especially the town hall forum and Daily Show. Either way all eyes will be on Oxford come September and we’d better be ready.

Posted in Journalism, Ole Miss, Presidential debate | Leave a Comment »

Shep Smith in a cap and gown?

Posted by paulquinn on May 7, 2008

In Friday’s Daily Mississippian I reported that Shepard Smith was to give the commencement speech at this years graduation.

I have always heard Mr. Smith did not actually graduate from Ole Miss, rather he left before earning an undergraduate degree. And whoever wrote his wikipedia page seems to think so as well.

Clearly from his success at Fox News he did not need to get his last credits. I do, however, wonder if he was the best choice for this years ceremony. What will his message be to those who have not yet graduated, or those still in high school? You can go to college but you don’t need to finish?

As I have heard he failed to obtain the proper number of foreign language credits to graduate, a common downfall for students. While he has had tremendous success since leaving Ole Miss should the university be honoring him? Students should not get the idea they can do all degree requirements except a few and be OK.

In today’s world a BA is nearly equivalent to a high school diploma. Obtaining some type of graduate degree is necessary for the type of success Mr. Smith has acquired.

Some people like Mr. Smith are lucky and were able to rise high, but in reality not getting a degree means many hardships. I for one feel the university should have hired a speaker who rose the ranks the hard way, lots of schooling then years of hard work in the real world.

Mr. Smith could give graduates a sense of false hope that they too will get lucky and land their dream job, but as most people know this just doesn’t happen.

I do not know if Mr. Smith will wear a cap and gown, it seems likely he will. I always thought wearing graduation garb was a privilege for those with actual degrees. I guess he could wear his high school cap and gown. Does anybody know the standard for non graduates putting on the garb?

Posted in Journalism, Ole Miss | Leave a Comment »