Friday, March 14, 2008
A few weeks ago, Professor Peter Henning questioned whether there might be a plea by one of the defendants in the Scruggs case. (see here) He stated,
"Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers rejected the remaining motions filed by Dickie Scruggs and his two co-defendants, son Zach and Sidney Backstrom, clearing the way for trial at the end of March on the charges related to an alleged attempted bribe by confederate Tim Balducci. With that goes the best chance Backstrom may have of avoiding a trial in which the spillover from the government's Rule 404(b) bad acts evidence is likely to paint the defendants as three peas in a corrupt pod."
Henning stated, "[s]o the question now is whether Backstrom will break ranks and agree to cooperate against Dickie and Zach."
Well Backstrom did break ranks, but the unexpected part is that Dickie Scruggs decided to tag along. In a surprising move, "Dickie"Scruggs entered a plea. The document is a short one - all of four pages - and it is a plea agreement with few strings attached.
Scruggs will plead guilty to one count - conspiracy to corruptly influence a state court judge, a charge that carries a maximum of five years. In return the government will dismiss the remaining five counts (Counts Two - Six). There is no agreement as to sentencing, there is no agreement as to cooperation, and there is no agreement with regard to other jurisdictions proceeding against him. The agreement boldly states that "[t]he defendant is pleading guilty because defendant is in fact guilty of the charges."
Why? Well for one, Scruggs' admission provides a basis for arguing that he should receive a decrease in sentence for acceptance of responsibility. With new Supreme Court decisions like Gall and Kimbrough, Scruggs has the ability to try and convince the court to give a sentence below the guidelines.
Plea Agreement - Download scruggs_plea_agreement.pdf
(esp) (w/ thanks to Stetson's Whitney Curtis)