Famed prosecutor and judge is rebuilding life in New Orleans after release from prison
Bobby DeLaughter had it all. In 1994, DeLaughter, a crusading prosecutor in Hinds County, Miss., did what several of his predecessors had been unable to do over the previous 31 years: convict white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. He became a judge in 1999—three years after Alec Baldwin played him in a major motion picture that dramatized his role in the Evers case. Ten years later, he went to prison after pleading guilty to a federal obstruction charge in the Richard “Dickie” Scruggs bribery scandal.
He got out in April 2011, and since then, he’s moved to New Orleans—a city where many current and former officials are on second, third or even fourth chances. According to a Sunday story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, DeLaughter currently manages a company that finds and restores apartment buildings that have been forgotten about—including some that haven’t been touched since Hurricane Katrina. He said that he chose New Orleans because he found that the city was “a tolerant and forgiving place where people have been coming for the past 300 years to start new lives.”
DeLaughter, who served a year in prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators in connection with a bribery investigation of Scruggs, admitted that he should have been more careful. “I don’t consider myself a stupid person, but I was stupid,” DeLaughter said. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for lying about the number of times he spoke to then-Hinds County district attorney Ed Peters, his former boss, about Scruggs and his $15 million legal fees dispute. Nevertheless, DeLaughter denied some of the more salacious allegations that were levied against him, including an accusation that he ruled for Scruggs so that Scruggs would push his brother-in-law, then-U.S. Senator Trent Lott, to put DeLaughter up for a federal judgeship.
DeLaughter’s conviction has been somewhat divisive in Mississippi legal circles. “What is deeply ironic is Bobby DeLaughter was promised so little and received nothing,” said Matt Steffey, professor at Mississippi College School of Law, to the Clarion-Ledger. “If I were a judge, and a former boss and mentor sat across a table and talked out of school, I’m not sure I’d call the FBI.”
Jackson lawyers Vicki Slater and Bill Kirksey, who represented Scruggs’ former law partner, William Roberts Wilson Jr., disagreed. “Four lawyers gave up their law licenses, and three of those four lawyers went to prison because DeLaughter’s rulings were corrupted,” Slater said. “There is nothing that I can add that speaks to the reality of the crime more than that.”
In the meantime, DeLaughter is keeping busy with his new career restoring apartment buildings. Additionally, he’s tried his hand at writing crime novels. His self-published first book, Inside the Labyrinth: A Bo Landry Erotic Thriller, was released last month, and he is currently working on a sequel.