JFP coverage of DeLaughter and Peters
JFP coverage of Peters and Melton
Feb. 12, 2009Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter, famous for prosecuting an infamous civil rights murder, was arraigned today in federal court on five indictments for his role in a bribery scandal involving attorney Dickie Scruggs and DeLaughter's former boss, ex-Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters. DeLaughter was brought in leg irons and handcuffs into Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander's courtroom in Oxford for his arraignment on five counts this morning of indictments that have been the worst kept secret in state since the FBI starting investigating Frank Melton. The indictments are sealed in the case that has come to be referred to as "Scruggs II."
According to the blog Folo, federal prosecutor Bob Norman shook DeLaughter's hand, saying: "Judge DeLaughter, I'm sorry. I'm sorry we're here." DeLaughter pled "not guilty to all charges." His attorney is Cynthia Speetjens and the trial is set for April 6. The judge set a $10,000 bond.
Two of Scruggs' former law partners, Alwyn Luckey and Roberts Wilson, sued Scruggs, claiming he had stiffed them out of their fair portion of legal fees from highly successful asbestos and tobacco lawsuits.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry Davis ordered Scruggs to pay Luckey $17 million in 2005, but Scruggs got better treatment with the Wilson suit after Scruggs' legal team brought on former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, whoaccording to prosecutorscorruptly influence" DeLaughter, who was presiding over the case.
Scruggs hired former Booneville attorney Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci to assist in retaining Peters, who was as DeLaughter's boss back when Delaughter was an assistant district attorney with Hinds County.
Langston and Balducci recently pled guilty to paying Peters $1 million to influence DeLaughter and to dangle the possibility of a federal court appointment before the judge. Scruggs' brother-in-law, Sen. Trent Lott, was in a position to recommend DeLaughter for a federal appointment, though Lott has not been charged for peddling his influence.
Lott called DeLaughter, but never recommended him.
Balducci testified last year that Peters was speaking with DeLaughter and that the two shared an intimate enough relationship with the case for Peters to show Scruggs one of DeLaughter's judicial orders before the judge had even filed it.
Relationships in Hinds County Circuit Court have proven quite cozy in the past. Cedric Willis is an exonerated Jackson resident who sat in prison for 12 years after then-ADA DeLaughter convinced Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Breland Hilburn to throw out DNA evidence and witness testimony that Willis claims would have exonerated him during his trial.
Emily Maw, director of the New Orleans-based Innocence Project, which overturns bad convictions through DNA evidence, said last year that she was amazed the judge had agreed to toss evidence that so easily undermined Willis' guilt.
"When Cedric Willis was prosecuted, the state of Mississippi knew full well that they had an innocent man," Maw said. "This was not a case where the prosecutor thought he maybe had a weak case but
went ahead with the prosecution with some reservations.
They knew outright that Cedric Willis did not commit this crime and they said so themselves in the newspapersthen they willingly kept out evidence that would have proved him innocent, and they let him sit in jail.
Wow. This is almost enough to make me believe in karma. Any indication yet whether Peters is going to testify against him?
I hope that this gives Cedric some small measure of comfort, knowing that one of the men who sent him away is likely to spend time in prison himself. It won't be Parchman, but still.
- Brian C Johnson
This is a rather complicated web on intrigue the Scruggs people have woven, who all in this saga hasn't been indicted yet?