Disbarred Lawyer, Former Miss. Auditor Get 2 Years in Scruggs-Related Case
Posted Feb 13, 2009 8:50 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
In the latest chapter of a $26.5 million Hurricane Katrina legal-fees dispute that led to the downfall of former tort king Richard "Dickie" Scruggs and other professionals, a disbarred lawyer and a former Mississippi state auditor have each been sentenced to two-year federal prison terms.
Ex-attorney Timothy Balducci and Steve Patterson, the former auditor, were sentenced this morning to 24 months for their role as co-conspirators in the judicial bribery scheme, according to the Clarion-Ledger and the Associated Press.
Both defendants cooperated in the case, which is in federal court in Oxford, Miss., and was launched when the Mississippi judge approached with bribe offers went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Meanwhile, another Mississippi jurist, Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter, has recently been indicted in a separate federal judicial bribery case related to Scruggs, concerning asbestos litigation. This case reportedly was sparked by the earlier federal investigation of the Hurricane Katrina legal fees scheme.
Scruggs—who has been convicted in both cases and is serving concurrent five- and seven-year sentences—pleaded guilty to mail fraud earlier this week in the DeLaughter-related case.
DeLaughter never received any money from Scruggs, according to a recent Bloomberg article that details the alleged scheme. However, the judge is accused of funneling information about the litigation over which he was presiding to the Scruggs legal team, in exchange for help gaining a seat on the federal bench.