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New Paul Minor ruling leaves unanswered questions

Posted by paulquinn on December 11, 2009

Today, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out several charges against former attorney Paul Minor and two judges accused with him – but the three-judge panel left in tact their honest service fraud charges, along with Minor’s RICO charges.

Now, Minor and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield will get awarded a new sentencing. But what will happen to the rest of their charges remains to be seen.

According to The AP, “It’s not clear how much the reversal will reduce Minor’s sentence because he got the most time for a racketeering conviction, which was upheld.”

The story goes on to quote Minor’s attorney Hiram Eastland saying they plan to continue pursuing their appeal on the other charges.

The partially vacated charges has led to different media outlets claiming victory for Minor, while the ruling for others adds to their belief Minor is guilty.

As the AmLaw Litigation Daily put it,”Those on the left see Minor as the victim of a political prosecution, while conservatives tend to regard him as an emblem of trial lawyer corruption who was rightly convicted of scheming to bribe judges.”

The AP and AmLaw report that whether Minor and the judges’ honest services fraud charges are upheld largely depends on what the Supreme Court decides in an unrelated case they are hearing. The New York Times has a story from Dec. 8 that leads, “A federal law that is a favorite tool of prosecutors in corruption cases met with almost universal hostility from the justices in Supreme Court arguments on Tuesday.”

Though blogs and papers are touting the vacated charges and pending Supreme Court ruling on honest services charges as a possibility of a completely dismissed case, legal blogger Alan Lange at Y’allPolitics notes, “The RICO penalties alone likely mean that this will result in only a slight reduction in jail time for Minor, Whitfield and Teel.”

However, according to Anita Lee at The Sun Herald, “With the bribery counts thrown out, the racketeering conviction will hinge on the validity of the honest services fraud statute because racketeering must involve underlying criminal acts.”

But Tom Freeland at quotes the Fifth Circuits ruling today, saying:

In regard to the predicate acts underlying the Count Three RICO charges against Minor, the jury found that the Government had proved bribery as to the $100,000 loan to Whitfield and wire fraud as to the wire transfer made by Radlauer, but that the Government had failed to prove bribery as to the $40,000 and $24,500 campaign loans that Minor made to Whitfield and Teel respectively.

It seems to an outside observer, such as myself, today’s opinion only adds to the current debate. The Fifth Circuit clearly lays out the story as a lawyer giving money to judges he had cases in front of. What happens next seems to be a guessing game at this point, but one thing is clear, another Mississippi judicial bribery scandal has moved its way back into big news.


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Authority speaks on newspaper trouble

Posted by paulquinn on January 14, 2009

Dr. Samir Husni, also known as Mr. Magazine, has some interesting insight into the problems newspapers are facing, and what they need to do.

If what Dr. Husni says is true, print media needs to scrap the old model and create a new one.  For the journalist sake lets hope the problem can be fixed.

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Comments post Langston sentencing

Posted by paulquinn on December 16, 2008

After Joey Langston was sentenced Tuesday I got a chance to talk to a few people involved in the case.

The first gentleman in my video is Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Dawson. The second is Robert Wilson’s attorney Charlie Merkel. And the third is Langston’s attorney Tony Farese. 

Please go here for the full story.

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Here are ALL my notes on Langston letters

Posted by paulquinn on December 11, 2008

Because I have TWO insanely difficult finals in the next 36 hours I didn’t have time to write a story for But the least I can do is publish every letter I wrote down.

I had hoped (if there was time) to talk with a professor about the effectiveness of such letters. Does the amount of letters matter, or who wrote them. How much weight are pre-sentencing letters given by the judge etc …. If you have an idea please feel free to comment below.

1. Travis Childers (1/22/2008) – “I’m saddened as I write this, even heart broken for him, his sweet wife Tracie, their fine sons, Keaton, Colby  and Kane. Lastly, but surely far from least, I am hurt for his precious mother, Dot, whom I love and have loved for forty years.”

I suppose many will say that Joey somehow lost his way. I disagree. No one in my forty nine years in Prentiss County has had greater impact on so many people that I personally know that Joey Langston. He has been a friend to all and an enemy to none. His heart is bigger than our entire county. His generosity to the people of Prentiss County will probably never be exceeded in my lifetime; Not only his generosity of his resources, but by his generous gift of love and kindness to all who were willing to accept it. He has been a friend to the poor just as the wealthy. He has treated everyone with the greatest respect. I can hardly believe this tragedy is happening to him and his family.”

“I recall so many times that I (as chancery clerk) have called on him to help pay hospital bills, buy medicine, pay school expenses, furnished Christmas gifts to needy children, even to assist in burial expenses for people in our county. Most of the times he never knew the people he helped. Several years ago there was a certain death of a young child, which as you know is devastating enough to a family in itself. Joey, knowing the family was not prepared to bury this child, much less prepared to pay six thousand dollars for a funeral. He discreetly stepped in to the office of the local funeral home and left a personal check to cover the expense for the family. He asked the owner to please not tell the family he paid the bill. There was no lawsuit to follow or any other personal potential gain to Joey. He just knew that he couldn’t bring that child back, but he could help in that way. When I approached him and suspected that he had done this kind act, he asked me to not tell the family that he had taken care of this.

This is not a man who has lost his way. He may have gotten sidetracked, but he hasn’t lost his way. I only wish that every town and county in America had someone like Joey Langston.

If losing his license to practice law isn’t severe enough punishment, then certainly the embarrassment from the local and regional news is. Joey understand consequences and will accept your sentence as he has agreed. His absence from Booneville and Prentiss County will be a far greater loss to us than him. I ask for your mercy as you are charged with sentencing Joey, I further ask that you take into consideration the many acts of kindness he has done for his fellow man in this area, especially the many children he has helped.”

“…I know his heart and it is good. I wish I could fix this situation. I would take his punishment if I could.”

“…I ask you again for leniency to my friend, Joey Langston – a man who may have gotten sidetracked, but has never lost his way and never will.”

Judy Pharr Ramey (1/18/2008) – “I am a registered nurse and serve as the Mayor of the town of Marietta.”

“As Mayor of Marietta, I have always been able to count in Joey for advice and council when needed. Marietta is a very small municipality with limited resources, however we have always known when we needed legal advice, Joey would provide for our needs.”

“I ask that you, your Honor, take into consideration all of the good that this man, my friend, has done for both the community and his fellow man. I feel that all the good that Joey has done should not be overshadowed by the current events.”

Michael Ramey (1/8/2008) – Captain of the Criminal Investigation Division for the Booneville Police Department and City Marshall for the town of Marietta.

“I have been in law enforcement for 19 years. During my years in law enforcement, I have watched help the Police Department in so many ways. He purchased bulletproof vests and drug dogs for the City of Booneville and Prentiss County.”

“I urge you to take into consideration all the support and good that Joey has done and continues to do for our community and country.”

J. Robert Floyd (1/22/2008) – retired naval officer, veteran WW2 and Korean War and peacetime service.

Tim G. Fortenberry (1/18/2008) Chief of Police Boonville Police Department – “Joey has and will continue to do a great deal of good for the people of Prentiss County and Northeast Mississippi. I also realize that Joey made a terrible and costly mistake in judgement. But, from what I reading in newspaper reports he had admitted his mistakes, accepted responsibility for his actions, and is cooperating with the investigation. He now has to accept the consequences for his actions. I also realize he has hurt a great number of people, including his own family, and a business in which he worked hard to become successful.”

“I hope this letter in a small way can convey the respect I have for Joey. Although he has made mistakes, which of us as humans are perfect, By the Grace of God Go I.”

John T. Sanders (no date) Building Inspector Booneville – “His community service and generosity are greatly appreciated by all. He has donated for our children of the community a wonderful addition to our City Park and payground called Kids Town. He has flown children and adults to seek medical care at his own expense.

“I have known Joey and his family to be very outstanding people in our small town. As we the people stand strong in our faith and beside our friend, please know that we are very fortunate to have a friend named Joey Langston.”

Rickey Neaves (no date) Superintendant Booneville School District – “As principal and now as Superintendant of Booneville Schools the Langstons have been a very important part of school system. The Langston Law Firm sponsors our Student of the Month banquet for our District. This banquet allows us to honor students who not usually get the opportunity to be recognized.

“I do realize that what Mr. Langston did was wrong, but please take into consideration all the positives works that he been responsible for not only here, but all over our area. He made a mistake, admitted it, will loose his liscense (sic.). Let that be enough for his mistake.

Jerry O. Barnes (1/22/2008) retired police officer for Booneville Police Department (26 years). Chief of Police for 7 years and Assistant Chief for 7.

Jimmy and Tina Moore

Bill Ward, Jr. Public Service Commission going on twenty-one years

“I guess you could say that I hate that I have to write you but then again I am more than proud to write you on behalf of my friend, Joey Langston.”

“I had a chance to play little league baseball and that is when I first met Joey. We were on the same team.”

“Judge Mills what I’m trying to say is, I know Joey has made a huge mistake and like anyone else he must pay for his mistakes. I have made more than a few bad choices through out my life as well as and by the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ I have become a changed person that in one reason I am writing you. I just wanted to tell you just a few things that Joey has done for my family and me.

The Prentiss County Board of Supervisors, William “Buddy” Clark, Mike Kesler, Glen Green, Mike Huddleston, Larry Lambert, Travis W. Childers (clerk). Written on Board of Supervisor letter head.

“We the Prentiss County Board of Supervisors would like to thank you for this opportunity to explain what Joey Langston means to Prentiss County. We ask that you consider his hard work, time, love, and donations to citizens of our county in determining his sentence. Joey is a crucial part of this county, and we ask for leniency on his behalf.”

“On behalf of the citizens of Prentiss County, we ask for leniency for one of our most loyal citizens, Joey Langston. Please consider the loss of Joey as a stern punishment for the people  of Prentiss County.”

Travis Childers Realty manager Jane Gillespie (1/18/2008 662-728-7694)

“Not only has he supported community endeavors, he has also been extremely generous to those who are in need due to illness, poverty or education.”

“Joey Langston is a good man who made a bad decision he is willing to take the responsibility for what he has done.”

Prentiss County tax collector (on letterhead) H.W. Rusty Cole Jan Furtick, Jo Young, Aneshia Davis, Lynn Miley, Terri Haire.

Larry Morgan (1/23/2008) superintendant Booneville Schools in 1997 0 June 30 2007.

“I feel that Joey Langston deserves some of the credit for the success of the Booneville Schools. … Everything he does is for the benefit of all the students – not a select few.”

Brent Mauney Director of Parks and Recreation Boonville (1/23/2008)

“As director of Parks and Recreation in Booneville Mississippi for 18 years, I’d like the opportunity to tell you about the impact Joey Langston has had on the Booneville City Park system.”

-sponsor baseball teams, coached all three children from T-ball up to baseball, “instrumental in providing a playground for the children on Booneville …”, a pavilion for the playground.

“Around the town when you see Joey you get a person that is just like anybody you run in to, he’s always down to earth, he always tells who ever is around about a call on the field that I missed years ago, then we laugh. I always been able to call Joey about advice on countless things through the years, not legal matters but life matters (sic.).

James R. “Jimmy” Taylor, retired sheriff of Alcorn County

“I totally understand that Mr. Langston has made some serious mistakes in his life for which he must pay. I would ask that you consider the good he has done for the people in his home county of Prentiss and the help he has given to many people in the State of Mississippi.”

Steve Eaton –

D. Patrick Eaton, executive director Northeast Mississippi Community College Development Foundation letterhead, former Booneville Area Chamber of Commerce (1/23/2008)

Lucille Day-Branch President Prentiss County NAACP (1/23/2008) “Thanks to Mr. Langston’s contributions every year, we are able to two educational scholarships to persons pursuing a teacher’s degree.”

Rhonda Greening (1/21/2008)

J.F. “Bud” Green former Circuit Clerk of Prentiss County – “I have known Joey all of his life and known his father since he came to Booneville years ago. He comes from a family of great stature and respect. I know of no one that did not respect Joe Ray Langston, and because of that everyone has automatic respect for his son, Joey. Although he had that automatic respect, he worked hard for what he has achieved, never forgetting where he came from.”   “As a political official, and as a member of the community, I know the good things that Joey has done for our people.”

Tim Holloway

Dwight Hastings Chairman Deacon Board Springhill M.B. Church, 1st VP NAACP Prentiss Branch, Booneville School Board and USAF retired.

Jimmy Harris, Boonville Street Superintendent (1/23/2008)

Lisa Horn, assistant director of Nursing at Landmark Nursing and Rehab, once co-owned by Langston Horn says, “Our nursing facility is not your average nursing home, because that’s the way Mr. and Mrs. Langston and Mr. and Mrs. Childers wanted it to be. They wanted a more home-like atmosphere, where elderly residents could spend their last years comfortably and not in a hospital type setting.” “They (the Langstons) have the Langston Foundation set to take care of families at Christmas and so their water and electricity won’t be turned off.” “It’s obvious how the community feels about Joey because he was chosen as the “Citizen of the Year” because of all the wonderful things he has done for the community …”

Barbara Hester

Ray Mason – Director of Environmental Services at Landmark Nursing and Rehab – “During this time I have come to know Mr. Langston (Joey) as the most generous person I have ever known.I saw this first hand as he would see that my brother in law, Eddie Burns was given anything he needed to be able to travel and watch our nephew play on a travel baseball team.”

Austin Rowland

John G. Corlew, Watkins and Eager Law Firm (6/6/2008) “Approximately ten years ago I became adverse to Joey Langston in a litigation involving several cases with multiple plaintiffs in several venues in Mississippi.  … “Through several months of discovery, trial preparations and other litigation activity,I developed a very healthy respect and high regard for Mr. Langston as and attorney and person.” Also worked on the Foradori case with Langston, he says

Jim Drewry, Booneville High School head football coach

Thorne G. Butler, Director of Alumni and Development Mississippi College School of Law (1/22/2008) “I understand that Joey has lost his license to practice law which is severe punishment in itself. At this point in your deliberations in reaching an appropriate sentence I write on Joey’s behalf to ask your consideration of leniency.”

Jesse Mitchell III, Ole Miss football player 2002, refers to langston as “papa joe”

“I was faced with a difficult decision several years ago. I had to decide whether to forgo playing another year in the NFL after knee surgery or to venture blindly into the ‘real world.’ The first person I called was Joey Langston.

Mike DuBose, Millsaps College head football coach. Colby Langston plays football there.

Dr. Frances Lucas, President Millsaps College (on letterhead) (1/30/2008) “Joey and his wife, Tracie, have made significant contributions to Millsaps College.” Given scholarships.

“All of my interactions with Joey and Tracie have been positive. I sincerely hope you will judge him on his contributions as you ponder this mistake to which he admits.”

Joey Langston (April 17, 2008) Addressed to Clerk David Crews announcing that Langston can no longer practice law, but adds “Lastly, please accept my most sincere thanks for your kindness and professionalism over the years. My most pleasant professional memories are from the many hours and days spent in courthouses and courtrooms with wonderful courtroom people such as yourself and your staff.”

Volume 1 of 4 – Letters from attorneys. Some local or Mississippi law firms, others from Alabama and Texas.

Wilbur O. Colom, The Colom Law Firm (1/23/2008) Joey Langston is before you for sentencing on a serious offense and, while acknowledging the gravity of the conduct, I wish to offer the Court a rounded view of this man.”

“…in the fall of 2006, he made one the three largest contributions to start the Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi of Law.”

“I have seen pure greed up close and Mr. Langston is not so driven. Even more distressing is the aspects of this case that suggest that he has a contempt for the essential integrity of our legal system, so vital to the public willingness to accept the judgement of our courts. I have worked with Mr. Langston on cases and nothing about his conducted has ever reflected anything but the greatest respect for our system of justice.”

“This event, I sincerely believe, was singular, a momentary lapse in judgement and self-control.”

John J. “Jay” Perry, Perry, Winfield and Wolfe, P.A. “I would like to share the emotions I felt when the rumors and innuendos were confirmed and Joey stood in your courtroom, not as an advocate for a client, but as an advocate for himself. I was angry. I was bewildered. I was confused. But most of all I was sad. I was sad because our noble profession had been damaged. I was sad because Joey had obviously left the path and become lost somewhere along his journey.”

Janelle M. Lowery, President of the Prentiss County Bar Association

“I certainly regret the matters that have befallen him, and from conversations, I am advised that he also is very remorseful of decisions he has made that have brought him to this particular point in his life. The surrender of his license to practice law, I am sure, was one of the most traumatic things he had ever encountered.”

Duncan Lott (1/24/2008) brother-in-law once removed. “I know you (Judge Mills) face tremendous pressure to make a statement with Joey’s sentence. However, I implore you to consider our human frailties, and the fact one mistake should not destroy the life, accomplishments, and contributions Joey has made. Joey has been humiliated and dishonored; but he grieves for his family, friends and the profession he has let down.”

Tracie Langston (5 pages) highlighting Langston’s good deeds as a father, lawyer, and community “philanthropist.”

“I am forever grateful and especially thankful that my sons have Joey as a father. Lovingly embracing these young men and pushing them at the same time is a gift.”

“Mister Rogers said, ‘It’s no secret that I like to get to know people – and not just the outside stuff of their lives. I like to try and understand the meaning of who people are and what they’re saying to me.’

“Simply,I hope that you understand that Joey is a good man, a good father, and a good husband. I know all of these things to be true because this is my life too. Joey Langston has been husband and best friend for 25 years.”

Dorthy “Dot” Langston – “Even as a little boy he was the kindest and most caring of my three children – who are all very special. … I can’t tell you how many people have told me how thankful they are that Joey helped them through a difficult time.”

“A good son is a good husband who is a good father – Joey is all of those things.”

“It is unfortunate that this has come about. This is such a dark time in our lives. I know Joey better than anyone in the world knows him. Please, please consider all his good deeds and kindness and please, please don’t send him away from us! I need him more than you could know and his boys and wife need him so very much. Casey and Bryce need him and all my ill relatives need him. He is the heart of our entire family! We will all fall apart without his care. Please, please have mercy on my wonderful, kind and caring son.”

Casey Langston Lott (nephew) (1/22/2008) The Lott Law Firm “It is with tearful eyes and a heavy heart that I write you today begging for your mercy on the kindest, most generous man I know, my uncle Joey.”

“This has been a very trying time for Joey and our family. It is very difficult to watch a man you love and admire, suffer so much over one lapse in judgement. … Taking Joey’s license to practice law away from him has hurt him more than you could imagine. When Joey lost his license, he lost his identity. I have never seen him so deflated.

“For the first time since that horrible Tuesday when I watched my ‘Uncle Jo Jo’ cry uncontrollably and tell me how sorry he was that he had ruined our family name, I saw something that gave me hope. It was the following three verses …” Proverbs 19:17, 21:13 and Isaiah 58:10.

“Please do not send my uncle away. If you had known and loved him as long as I have, you would feel the same way I do about him and you would know that he has already suffered enough.”

Christy Townley Mann, District Court Judge in Charlotte North Carolina, “I plead with you to not require him to active time, but use his good and plentiful attributes to help the least among us. … His final act as a lawyer, to take full responsibility for actions, without excuse, makes me proud to call him my cousin and my friend.”

Robert Bryce Lott (Joey is his uncle.) “I plead to you in fear that an example will be made of a good man in a weak moment without regard to what his life has given those closest to him.”

Second handwritten letter from Dorthy “Dot” Langston “Judge Mills, I would do anything is this whole world for Joey. I would gladly give my life for his.”

“Please, please consider what terrible loss and punishment, he doesn’t go out in public now unless he just has to. He is so ashamed. Please please don’t send him away.”

“I know you are a good and intelligent man or you wouldn’t be in the position you are in today. Please have mercy on Joey.”

Multiple pastors, preachers and other churchgoers.

Gary Walker  “If it is deemed by your honor that he must be put away, then I humbly ask that you let me do his time. For you see your Honor, Joey’s health is not good he is a diabetic, and he will do more good for our community while I’m doing his time than I’ll ever be able to do.”

“If this is agreeable to your honor, please call me at (phone #) so we can work out the details.”

One negative

from “P” who is a native from Booneville but lives if West Texas

“Angry that attorney Joseph C. (Shylock) Langston would sell the flesh of the poorest of the poor people for money. He has traded their backs, calloused hands and hard spirit for Judas Blood Money.

“Please your Honor, I appeal to you to consider allowing this confessed criminal to serve the full sentence.”

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The motion for downward departure

Posted by paulquinn on November 13, 2008



Here is a copy of a story I wrote with different information we did not have room for at Thedm:

In a filing filed Wednesday in the United States case against Joey Langston the U.S. attorneys ask for Langston to serve less time in prison because he suffered a heart attack, had a “possible intruder” at his home and for going beyond exceptions to help the government with its current investigation.

Langston pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in alleged bribes taking place between Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter and others.
The motion for “downward departure,” obtained byThe Daily Mississippian outlines Langston’s work on the case since pleading guilty in January 7, 2008.
According to the document, “On October 3, 2008, a possible intruder was found on the Langston property in the early morning hours by Langston’s oldest son, Keaton. The intruder was not apprehended, but was driving a late model van which appeared (from an interior light being on) to be packed with electronic equipment.”
The incident is currently under investigation by local law enforcement, the document shows.
The judge is also asked to consider a heart attack Langston suffered shortly after pleading guilty as another reason to reduce possible prison time.

On Feb. 7 Langston had a heart catheterization due to the heart attack suffered weeks earlier, court records said. Langston had the surgery at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth.

The investigation into DeLaughter occurred shortly after Scruggs was indicted in November 2007. The alleged scheme goes: Scruggs and Langston hired Peters, a long time friend of Delaughter, to influence
the outcome of a fee dispute case, Wilson v. Scruggs.
Delaughter may have been offered a federal judgeship for helping out the Scruggs team. Federal judges are picked by the president based on senators recommendations. Former Senator Trent Lott is Scruggs’ brother-in-law, Scruggs is alleged to have offered his influence to get the federal judgeship for DeLaughter. Lott has not been implicated in any case or investigation. 
Since cooperating with federal prosecutors Langston has produced flight logs, office calenders and financial records from January 2005 to August 2006, the alleged period Scruggs used Langston and Peters to influence DeLaughter.

As recently as Oct. 23 Langston appeared before the grand jury at the federal courthouse in Oxford. His testimony, “exceeded government expectations,” the motion says.

The motion also discusses several other meetings Langston had with assistant U.S. attorneys and the Department of Justice Integrity Section. They debriefed Lanston about the Wilson case, P.L. Blake, Peters, “Scruggs’ involvement in the DeLaughter conspiracy,” and several other cases under investigation.
P.L. Blake was a central figure in the original Scruggs scandal, Blake allegedly made millions cutting newspaper clippings and following politics during Scruggs’ case against the tobacco industry. Scruggs made nearly $1 billion in suing big tobacco. 
Other cases being investigated are the “Capatin D’s (Foradori Case)…(and) The United States v. Danny Dillard and Jason Stanford,” according to the motion.

Currently Scruggs, his son Zach Scruggs and Sidney Backstrom are serving time in federal prison for their role in a bribery scheme.

Two others, Timothy Balducci and Stephen Patterson, have not yet been sentenced because prosecutors are using them for further investigations into Scruggs, DeLaughter and Peters, court records show.

“(Langston’s) plea of guilty and subsequent cooperation constituted a turning point in the Scruggs case, and substantially contributed to Dickie Scruggs’ subsequent plea of guilty …,” the filing said.

The motion said Langston helped sift through 60 or 70 boxes of files in the Wilson v Scruggs case. Langston also worked over 100 hours going through 1,750 emails seized in search of Langstons office.

The Wilson case was settled on March 26, 2008 after Langston and his attorney, Tony Farese, proposed a deal.

Scruggs pleaded guilty on March 14.
On February 21, Langston was on hand at the federal courthouse to testify at a U.S. v Scruggs hearing.
DeLaughter is well-known in Mississippi for successfully prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith for the civil rights trial for the murder of Medgar Evers.

Before Scruggs pled guilty to bribery, the Music Building on the University of Mississippi campus was named, “Richard and Dianne Scruggs Hall.” Scruggs contributed millions of dollars to the university after the tobacco settlement and asbestos cases.

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Biden returns Scruggs’ money

Posted by paulquinn on August 20, 2008

Top vice presidential candidate Joesph Biden returned  $2,300 to Richard Dickie Scruggs after Scruggs was sentenced in July

The L.A. Times has the story.

Biden’s July expenses included giving refunds of $2,300 to the man known as Mississippi’s best-known attorney, Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, and Scruggs’ son, Zach Scruggs.

Scruggs, a longtime major donor to Democrats nationally and the brother-in-law of Republican Trent Lott, gained fame and wealth by suing asbestos manufacturers and tobacco companies.

His fortunes turned downward in March when he pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a judge who handled a suit over how to divide $26.5 million in legal fees from an $89-million settlement over Hurricane Katrina claims. He reported to prison earlier this summer to begin a five-year sentence.

Son Zach Scruggs, also a lawyer, admitted knowing about the felony and not reporting it. He’s serving 14 months in prison.

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More on letters written for Zach Scruggs

Posted by paulquinn on July 2, 2008

(Thanks to Tom Freeland a.k.a NMC at folo for the tip)

Zach Scruggs was sentence to 14 months behind bars Wednesday despite 10 more letters written on Zach Scruggs behalf; including one from Zach Scruggs Aunt Patricia Lott, wife of former U.S. senator Trent Lott.  Click here for quotes published in the Clarion Ledger.

Some more from Lott.

Patricia Lott: “Even as a young boy, he always had impeccable manners. Having two children myself, I was impressed with the job his parents had done.”

“He has a good group of friends who enjoy and love Zach because he is the same Zach they have always known.”

“Now is the time that he is needed to help with his mother who has been desperately ill with Crohns disease and is recovering from a stroke.”

Letters from friends and co-workers of Zach requesting leniency were also written.

J. Baron Barry Mcllwain: “Its no secret Zach’s father became very wealthy when Zach was a teenager. While this might have been difficult for some youngsters to handle, Zach remained attentive and loyal to all his family and acquaintances.”

Carson Hughes, chief executive officer for Telepax Inc., a parent company of Cellular South wrote in:
“I can only speculate as to the added self imposed pressure upon Zach to not disclose an act of another that most certainly would have led to the implication of his own father, at least, for his father’s failure to also disclose.”

Mississippi attorney and former Scruggs Law Firm associate Charles Mickal
“Zach regularly asked my advice on ethical issues he confronted in his practice, seeking guidance on how to best his ethical obligation.”
“In the circumstance (Zach) made an error in judgment, Apostle Paul wrote to Romans, ‘for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of god.’ Romans 3 23.”
“And Zach is paying a heavy price for his mistake, not only the public embarrassment he and his family are enduring, but also the loss of his privilege to practice law.”

Jesse Mitchell III says Zach was his mentor while working in Scruggs firm. Says Zach taught him life lessons and is wise beyond his years.
“He is very much a hard worker who leads by example. That’s why he has been torn apart by his actions and the pain that he has caused the profession that he loves and worked so hard in.”
“I have had the opportunity to meet with him on several occasions and every time he whole-heatedly apologizes for any embarrassment that he may have caused me as a friend and as an aspiring lawyer.”

Close friend Brad Grantham wrote: Weather its dinner plans or flying us down to the beach, “Zach is trustworthy, when Zach tells you he is going to do something he does it.” 

There are 10 letters total, and because of time I was only able to pull a few quotes from each. Zach Scruggs’ lawyer says they will be filing a request to allow him to stay out of jail until his child is born in October.


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Gas stealing on the rise, get a lockable cap

Posted by paulquinn on June 29, 2008

gas stealingOnly a few people out there are profiting from the high oil prices; those in the oil business and people stealing gas.

A friend from Houston, Texas said he left his car in the driveway with 25 gallons left in the tank, upon returning it was all gone. He went to Autozone to buy a lockable cap, but they were sold out.

A Google news search of gas stealing brings about 1,288 stories on gas siphoning.

Here is a report about farmers getting taken for hundreds of gallons.  The story also notes how people are buying gas caps due to the threat of losing 100’s of dollars worth of gasoline.

In Kentucky one man was charged with stealing 10,000 gallons worth. At $3.80 a gallon he stole $38,000 worth of gas. 

Some innovative thieves have even rigged a van for the purpose of siphoning gas. Very clever, but also quite telling. When people go to extremes to steal, bigger problems will follow.

I am sure the gas is for personal use, but is there a black market for gasoline? Will drug dealers and the MOB start bartering gas for illegal commodities?

The Wall Street Journal reports lower fuel costs in Mexico have created illegal activity on the border. The victims are the Mexican motorist. Gas is only $2.50 per/gal south of the border, and Americans are going in hordes for the cheaper fill-up. Now Mexican border towns are seeing less gas available for themselves. Wow the Mexican government is doing much better than the U.S., aren’t we supposed to be the developed nation and Mexico the developing one? Maybe we should learn something from a neighbors.

The WSJ reports the illegal activity occurs when people try and take more gas than they are allowed.

All of this is a boon for James Blue’s auto shop, located in a strip mall in the arid hills east of downtown San Diego. His business, Express Performance Center, installs extra-large fuel tanks in pickups and other work vehicles used for runs to fill up with cheap gas in Mexico.

The story explains later why this isn’t legal when the purpose is heading to Mexico with your newly added tank.

Crossing the border with fuel in a container that isn’t attached to a vehicle’s engine is illegal. California motorists routinely are sent back to Mexico and forced to empty unattached tanks spotted by U.S. border inspectors.

“It happened to someone who lives near me,” says Mr. Robinson, the Chula Vista plumber, who explains U.S. Customs agents at the border detained a neighbor of his when they spotted a 100-gallon container of diesel in the bed of his truck, then sent both driver and truck back to Mexico.

I doubt we will see any riots in the U.S. like those seen in Europe. But as people grow tired of not being able to afford gas, and stealing increases/continues, more might protest. Hopefully Americans can get through this without resorting to violence.

For those of you lacking a vehicle with a gas door release inside, or a lockable cap, you may be wise to get one. The thieves target those who are unprepared. 

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NPR talks with Boyer on Scruggs

Posted by paulquinn on June 29, 2008

NPR sits with The New Yorker writer Peter Boyer about Dickie Scruggs’ history, the case that made him bribe and the bribe itself.  Boyer wrote a profile of Scruggs in the May 19 issue of The New Yorker. He gives his own insight into Scruggs based on his research.

Here is the NPR recording.


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The case that made Scruggs bribe

Posted by paulquinn on June 27, 2008

Dickie Scruggs received the five year maximum sentence Friday for his role in trying to bribe Judge Henry Lackey. But how did a fee dispute case turn into a judicial bribery scandal?

Scruggs (among other things) did not like the original complaint against him because it made scurrilous remarks about him. Scruggs had Tim Balducci ask Lackey to throw out the accusations made by Jones and Funderburg attorney, Grady TollisonBalducci said to Lackey the fee dispute case should be sent to arbitration, and the accusations could be handled by summary judgement.

Tollison agreed there were scurrilous remarks in the original complaint, but said he could prove every single one of them.

So what did this complaint say? 

The Introduction is titled “The Greed of the Defendants”

This section explains what the Scruggs Katrina Group did,  along with the work done by Jones Funderburg. 

“After the performance of this work, the defendants (SKG), in concerted effort amounting to conspiracy, determined to ‘freeze out’ the Plaintiff (Jones and Funderburg) and reduce its proper share of the money,” the complaint reads.

The complaint explains who the different parties are and some facts of the case. Don Barrett, David Nutt, Scruggs, Sparky Lovelace and some others. 

Then the section entitled “The Scheme Begins” starts when Jones Funderburg first felt they were being short-changed.

“In December 2006 Don Barrett and Scruggs conspired among themselves to allocate Jones with a ridiculously low figure.”

Scruggs told Jones he would only receive 1 million dollars and nothing more. 

“Over the following three months the Defendants law firms and the individually named defendants attempted to bully and cajole the Plaintiff into taking less,” the complaint said. “These egregious acts were intended to cause and did cause extreme distress to the individual members of the Plaintiffs law firm.”

According to the complaint Jones and Funderburg asked for arbitration 20 times.

“The defendant Scruggs engaged in various activities such as the wrongful expenditures of funds belonging to the Joint Venture Agreement, including unauthorized hiring of personnel for Scruggs Katrina Group without approval of all members of SKG, and continued to do so without authority,” the complaint said.

In March 2007  SKG attorneys informed Jones and Funderburg their intent to force plaintiffs to take a sum determined by the other SKG attorney’s; or else Jones Funderburg would face immediate termination of all further involvement, the complaint says.

Jones asked SKG if they wanted to hear the basis of Jones’ legal authority, but was told such information was irrelevant, the complaint says.

The complaint then went on to say SKG attorneys told Jones Funderburg they had to answer before leaving the meeting. SKG attorneys relented allowing Jones Funderburg time to discuss the offer with their partners. But around 2 p.m. that same day an email sent to Jones by Barrett informed Jones they had 18 minutes to “call excepting (sic) my suggestion” or SKG would act accordingly.

Jones did not get the email until 4 p.m. that day and by this time SKG had already voted to remove Jones Funderburg.

The last pages of the 18 page complaint said Scruggs had repeatedly behaved this way, as did Barrett.

“Barrett and Scruggs wrongfully and illegally deprived the Plaintiff of property,” the complaint said. “A scheming cabal should not be allowed to succeed.”

Jones and Funderburg sought 20% for all past and future attorney fees collected by SKG. Punitive damages were also sought.  

The case is still ongoing Tollison said. Motions are being filed and Tollison is awaiting a November court hearing. 

Shortly after the case was filed Lackey was approached and the investigation began.  By November 28 2007 Scruggs and the four other conspirators were indicted, and in March 2008 the last three pleaded guilty.

The Bureau of Prisons awaits Scruggs’ arrival on August 4.


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