Legal Ethics

Miss. Judge Bobby DeLaughter Pleads Guilty to Scruggs-Related Obstruction

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A Mississippi judge pleaded guilty to a federal obstruction charge and resigned his seat on the bench yesterday, in exchange for a recommended 18-month prison sentence.

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter, 55, had faced a five-count corruption case that could have put him behind bars for as much as 20 years if he was convicted of all charges, according to the Clarion-Ledger and the Associated Press. He had been suspended, with pay, from his judicial job since May 2008.

A former prosecutor who made international headlines in a famous civil rights case that brought the 1963 shooter of NAACP leader Medgar Evans to justice in 1994, DeLaughter was assumed the bench in 2002.

His plea concerns a complex case that involves now-disgraced plaintiff attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs. DeLaughter denies that he mishandled big-ticket asbestos litigation involving Scruggs and passed a lie-detector test on the issue, according to his counsel. However, he admitted in his plea that he lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2007 about “never” speaking with his onetime boss, ex-Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters, the Clarion-Ledger recounts.

Scruggs’ legal team allegedly hired Peters to influence DeLaughter. Peters, who got $1 million from Scruggs, was given immunity in exchange for his testimony against DeLaughter, the newspaper notes.

Although DeLaughter never received any money from Scruggs, he was accused of funneling information about the litigation to the Scruggs legal team in exchange for help trying to gain a seat on the federal bench, as discussed in an earlier post.

U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson must still determine whether to accept DeLaughter’s plea in the Jackson, Miss., federal court case. If he rejects it, DeLaughter would still have the right to take the case to trial.

Additional coverage: “Miss. Judge is Federally Indicted in Scruggs-Related Corruption Case”

Blog of Legal Times: “State Judge in Mississippi Pleads Guilty to Obstruction”

Mississippi Writers & Musicians: “Bobby B. DeLaughter”

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