Update: U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson sentenced DeLaughter to 18 months this afternoon.
Former Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter will hear his sentence for obstruction of justice this afternoon. DeLaughter pleaded guilty to the charge in June, after initially denying accusations that he had lied to federal authorities about the number of times he spoke with former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters regarding a legal fees suit.
FBI agents claim DeLaughter, a prosecutor working for Peters during Peters tenure as district attorney, had numerous conversations with his former boss in the months leading up to and during the Wilson v. Scruggs lawsuit. Members of the legal team for attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs who pleaded guilty to corruptionclaim they had paid Peters $1 million to influence DeLaughter to make decisions favorable to Scruggs in the Wilson suit.
DeLaughter has maintained that he ruled logically and fairly in the case, and only pleaded guilty to misleading agents on the number of times he spoke to Peters. His plea agreement dropped four other counts against him that federal authorities filed this January, including mail fraud conspiracy and his alleged involvement in the bribery scheme.
Prosecutors said last year that Scruggs' team, which included convicted attorneys Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci, promised DeLaughter that Scruggs' brother-in-law Republican Sen. Trent Lott would consider recommending DeLaughter for a federal judicial appointment.
Both DeLaughter and Lott denied the accusation. Lott said he only made calls to DeLaughter and never submitted his name as a candidate for a judgeship.
Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey said Peters, who is walking free because of his aid to federal prosecutors in snagging DeLaughter, is the real criminal.
"Peters approached DeLaughter with the bribe. He has admitted to this," Steffey said. "He made himself to be an illegal influence for hire. It's nothing but avarice and trading on his former role as a district attorney and trusted former confidant. It's one thing to plead to a reduced charge, but in my judgment, complete immunity was too high a price to pay. Nobody else escaped scot-free like Peters, who merely disgorged the net proceeds of his ill-gotten gains to federal authorities."
Alabama attorney William Wilson sued Scruggs in 1994, claiming Scruggs had bilked him out of millions in legal fees on a lucrative asbestos lawsuit. He received a $1.5 million payment in the suit thanks to DeLaughter's interpretation of his contract with Scruggs, although a special master for the court recommended Wilson get $15 million.
Wilson filed a civil suit in January, the same month of the federal indictment, alleging a conspiracy that involved Scruggs, DeLaughter, former auditor Steven Patterson (who worked on Scrugs' legal team), Peters and a former U.S. Senator, who was unnamed in the lawsuit.
Wilson reached a settlement on that suit this week, though the details of the suit are confidential.
Stay tuned to the Jackson Free Press for updates to this story.
Is it just me, or are none of these crooks facing any real punishment for their outrageous corruption? Peters bribes a judge and gets no jail time? DeLaughter is allowed to plead to one felony? I understand that both of these men are disbarred and disgraced, but the punishment does not fit the crime. They should both do at least as much time as Cedric Willis, an innocent man they sent to prison, apparently in service to their careers. That's 12 years. And they shouldn't do it in some federal prison. They should do it in that disgrace of a plantation called Parchman.
These plea agreements are shameful.
- Brian C Johnson
DeLaughter received an 18-month sentence, according to the Associated Press.
The 55-year-old DeLaughter, sentenced by U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson in Aberdeen, apologized in the courtroom.
"I do want to express my sincere apologies not only to this honorable court, but to all my former colleagues, the people of Mississippi, and especially the people of Hinds County," DeLaughter said. He must report to prison on Jan. 4.
The former Hinds County circuit judge pleaded guilty in July to obstruction of justice. He admitted lying to an FBI agent during a judicial corruption investigation.
Davidson said DeLaughter had brought shame to the profession. The judge told DeLaughter he had experienced extreme highs and lows in his career.
"You've been to peaks and today you stand in a very deep valley," Davidson said.
I just hate his mentor, Eddie P, isn't going to jail too for even a longer period of time. I hope Bobby D one day decides to tell all he knows on Eddie "Pimping" Peters. Ed so sorely needs to go out like he sent so many others.
I just don't see how Ed Peters got the sweetest deal of all, yet, he carried more baggage or for sure as much as all of the other players. I hate to see DeLaughter take this painful fall. He was a pretty fair judge based on some of the cases I followed.
Had he not been the judge in such a high profile and racially charged case (Byron D. Beckwith), this would probably be a moot issue. I know that all was not right; however, I also know pay-back when I see it or hear it and it is always a Witch with a B.
"Had he not been the judge in such a high profile and racially charged case (Byron D. Beckwith), this would probably be a moot issue. I know that all was not right; however, I also know pay-back when I see it or hear it and it is always a Witch with a B." <