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November 29, 2007

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Having grown up in south Mississippi, I wouldn't be so quick to brush aside the reference to buried bodies as pure metaphorical poppycock.

hancock

hancock

Well, I thought that, honest I did, but being a northerner, it's not my place to suggest it might be a literal statement. Thanks for doing it for me.

"...he and I, um, how shall I say, for over the last five or six years there, there are bodies buried that, that you know, that he and I know where..."

~ Timmothy Balducci

Goodbye, Trent.

Thanks for the link, EW. I vaguely wonder whether Balducci may have brought that last check back to Dickie's office for some reason, and that's what the F.B.I. was looking for. Dunno why he would have, except that maybe at the end, they could have asked him to. (I'm not good at thinking like either side of such a transaction, as you see, so don't ask me to defend this flimsy hunchlet.)

Hancock, as a product of north Mississippi, I'll just say, "Nor would I" and leave it there.

Lotus

See, I just think there is something more. First of all, it seems like they're indicting Zach Scruggs for some reason--the evidence (at least shown here--did they give Balducci some consideration in order to get Zach?) really isn't that strong against him, so why indict him as well unless you want to go somewhere else? Also, I remain curious about the timing. Why have a raid on Monday, in anticipation of finalizing the indictment on Tuesday, and then not use the evidence at all?

In other words, I do think there's more here--or they wanted more and maybe didn't get it.

I wouldn't doubt that Backstrom flipped too, EW, and he may have something special on Zach, useful in getting more on Dickie (which, if this weren't Bush's DoJ, could go no-telling-where in Alabama or D.C., just as easily as Mississippi). Anyhow, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of the "bodies buried" . . .

Now you've got me wondering whether the raid's ending at 3:00 means they DID find "a thing, a document." Four-and-a-half hours doesn't strike me as all they might need to take a whole law office apart, and 3 PM isn't especially quitting-time either, eh? So maybe they did hit paydirt.

a dumb question (and extra dumb because I put it on the wrong post earlier): we have seen that the Bush/Cheney/Rove DoJ will go after Dem rivals in politically motivated suits. They already tried to get rid of Lott once. Do you think they would go after a Republican rival using same tactics? Can't imagine why with Lott in particular, but just asking

rxbusa

Not a dumb question at all.

Thing is, they just wanted Lott out of leadership (I've always believed it was because Lott was not a firebreathing warmonger--he had real doubts about the war). Yeah, he's back in, but risking losing a Senate seat in MS is not the easiest awy to get him back out of leadership. Besides, Lott was useful in that he was a lot more competent than Frist.

Zack is looking like a bag man here.

Balducci's partner in Judge-bribing crime, Dickie, handled Trent's Katrina Law Suit against State Farm...and knows where the bodies are buried.

I'm guessing the document in question was handled by Zach, and its content connects Lott to some 'bodies' associated with the Katrina Relief funds, possibly involving Clean-up Point Man, Karl Rove.

You have to have some Incredible Collateral to think you can Bribe a Judge.

Oh you can bribe judges alright-but not when you're getting 26 million in fees and only offering 40 grand in compensation.

It's like tipping a nickel on a 100 dollar check-of course the waiter's going to wear a wire.

martin

So you're suggesting that the Scruggses didn't get him the additional 10,000 quickly enough? And then some?

Wow. I have been busy, and therefore away, since early last night. Things sure move fast. I would also like to note that, as many already kind of know, I have a soft spot for lawyers that have the cojones to take on the biggest of business and the most powerful in government. It is a thankless job that is literally life consuming; and while you are in the middle of it, power comes at you from every angle and corner making it you and your co-plaintiffs against most of the perceived world. The upside is very difficult to reach, but immense; the downside is almost bottomless. I don't know Dickie Scruggs particularly (as mentioned previously, I talked to him a couple of times and he could not have been nicer or more helpful), and certainly don't know him as a person; but Scruggs is one of the few out there that fight the mammoth battles, and for that, I respect him. Scruggs has become very wealthy in the process, but don't be fooled, whatever he may be, or not be, as a person, he has accomplished some tremendous things in the litigation of issues on asbestos, tobacco, auto and tire safety, and other areas of product liability. He is now fighting giant insurance companies for their unconscionable treatment of claims in the Gulf from Katrina, and boy do they deserve it. So, since this story may be around for a while, take what I say with a grain of salt; I don't start out with a completely neutral perspective.

The above having been said, the indictment does not look good. No question, there is some bad stuff going on down there in the Gulf. What a rancid mess. Something doesn't sit right to me though. I want to know a LOT more about Balducci, Backstrom, Judge Lackey and the relative interaction of all three with Federal and state investigators and prosecutors, as well as insurance companies (especially State Farm). There is a lot of referencing to Scruggs, but darned if most all of the overt acts alleged seem to only involve the people that have flipped. I wonder if they maybe didn't turn a little earlier than they are letting on and they aren't setting Scruggs up. I don't know diddly about life and law in Mississippi and Alabama; but from where I come from, this whole scenario would be way to cheesey to have been the product of someone as accomplished as Scruggs. These are the big leagues, and you got to get your uniform a little dirty if you are going to play; this, however, just looks too stupid and sloppy to be Scruggs' plan. I am not saying Scruggs is innocent or that he is clean and angelic, he most certainly is not; but the scene we are seeing is not what it currently appears to be irrespective of what culpability there is on the part of Scruggs. I am probably completely nuts for saying this, but for better or worse, I call em as I see em. I want to know the "rest of the story" as Paul Harvey would say.

There is a lot of referencing to Scruggs, but darned if most all of the overt acts alleged seem to only involve the people that have flipped.

Yes, if lotus is right and Backstrom also flipped, it would seem to be true--though Dickie Scruggs is alleged to have set up the cover documents.

That's one of the reasons why I want to see what they really have on Zach Scruggs.

You know the old joke about the judge calling over the defense attorney and saying "The Plaintiff's attorney just gave me $5,000 to decide the case his way. So why don't you give me $5,000 and I'll do justice?"

If you put the judge's honesty and integrity on one scale of justice, it takes more than $40,000 on the other scale to balance it out. I really doubt Scruggs was a bribery virgin, so I have no idea why he's such a cheap bastard.

Damnit Dickie- post-Katrina-everything's more expensive on the Gulf Coast.

bmaz - I'm with you on trial lawyers that take on the difficult corporate liability cases, which is one reason why I love John Edwards so much.

Your take on this sort of reminds me of 'The Big Easy' with Dennis Quaid where he gets caught on video taking a bribe, but is still one of the good guys.

The Bush Crime family is ruthless, but they were never accused of being particularly smart. Setting up a Dem trial lawyer and possibly getting Lott in the bargain sounds like something they'd do, even though it's been demonstrated that Lott has helped them a great deal since was let back in.

If you are bribing a judge, wouldn't take cash? Why would they use checks?

If you are bribing a judge, wouldn't you take cash? Why would they use checks?

" - though Dickie Scruggs is alleged to have set up the cover documents.

This was how lotus described that, "...[Balducci] visited Lackey’s chambers in Calhoun County three times to deliver cash (which Dickie reimbursed, allegedly phonying-up some paperwork to look like he was compensating Balducci for work on a different case)." Maybe, but plaintiff's lawyers working on cases do, in fact, pass money, sometimes in big chunks, back and forth on cases to cover the payment of costs. Say I am working on a big case with attorneys for two other co-plaintiffs and I go retain the critical expert witness that is going to give the germane testimony establishing the case for all the plaintiffs and I write him a check for $100,000. I notify the other two to each send me $33,333.33 and remind them what a gentleman I am for waiving their portion of that last penny. Balducci could have done that, and Scruggs tells his accountant and secretary to "draw up a cover letter and send $40,000 over to Balduci on the Jones (or whatever) matter for expert witness costs". There are your "phoneyed-up documents". I am not for a second saying this is what occurred here, just that there are a lot of possible things that could be going on here, and the only thing that is certain is that they are not as simple as it is being made out to be and it is hard to trust any side of this story, including, regrettably, the government that is bringing this case.

This is the lobbying link from the thread below:
http://www.examiner.com/a-457729%7EYeas_and_Nays__Friday__Dec__15.html

Carlyle Group bought CSX in February 2003:
http://www.rense.com/general58/fearthecomingtrain2.htm

bmaz

Again, that's why I think it especially weird that they've indicted Zach, since all of his involvement, as described in the indictment, looks like that kind of discussion between lawyers and judges.

"This is Trent! Karl, where's my goddamn money?"

"I'm working on it, but, you know, Senator Lott, it's gonna be slow."

"Why's that?! I sat on my goddamn front porch and rocked with the President, and he assured me that we'd be the first to get the fucking money! Now, what could possibly be slowing it down?"

"There's niggers involved."

"Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, Karl, well, ha, you really had me going there for a minute, partner. Okay, here's what I want you to do - as soon as you can, I want to back the money truck up to a little old relief group, that's out there waiting for you, named "9th Ward Katrina Public Assistance and Welfare Fund."

"Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha! Oh, goddamn! That's funny!"

"Oh yeah, well, it is! It's even funnier that this pig trough leaks like a sieve a to whole cast of secret partners, mostly all of our brothers of the sheet and flag, if you know what I mean."

"Charity the right way, Brother Trent!"

"Don't make me call your Daddy now! You best be gettin' that money down here in a hurry, ya hear?!"

"Yes, Boss!"


I remain curious about the timing. Why have a raid on Monday, in anticipation of finalizing the indictment on Tuesday, and then not use the evidence at all?

Maybe they found something that they are not sure how to proceed with. (involving people that they want to protect)I have to agree with bmaz sounds fishy. could it be those insurance companies may have several axes to grind with Scruggs, and paid Balducci to set
Scruggs up?

Gaming industry - sounds like Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay. Add Carlyle Group buying CSX and you get Bush SR. profiting from this deal, too. Now if we can add Bush Jr influencing the DOJ judge, then do we win a prize?

"The now-infamous pork project would have spent $700 million to move a private CSX freight rail line in Mississippi a few miles inland to make room for a relocated Interstate 90 and a beach and gaming district along the Gulf coast."

I don't know how tied to the indictment that was rendered the search on Monday was. It may have been to tie up a loose end for the indictment, or it just may have been something they wanted to try to secure before Scruggs and the world became aware of the indictment, but was not an element of the indictment itself. No way to know.

Darclay - Is it possible? You bet. And keep in mind that the government (read Bush DOJ and local state folks like Haley Barbour and Riley in Alabama would all be more than happy to facilitate taking Scruggs out. I have no idea what really happened, but what we have so far is but a fraction of the whole story, that seems pretty clear. This is messy, messy stuff; nothing is simple and everything is possible.

bmaz, I'm really appreciating your reminders of all these complexities -- thank you for the help thinking 'em through.

lotus - heh heh Please keep in mind that you get what you pay for with my free advice.....

i have no idea what's going on down in the heart of american darkness

but

if scruggs really did seek an intermediary to bribe a judge,

he is truly an idiot.

why risk that much for so little?

in fact,

the very notion that someone as experienced as scruggs would even try to bribe a judge is difficult for me to believe.

in this day and time,

to carry a bag of money to any official seems so quaint and so stupid,

when there are so many other ways of issuing bribe money.

my first thought on reading this is

that it smacks very much of the doj attacks on democrat-supporting southern trial lawyers.

in any event,

there is something here that just does not feel right.

What's really challenging to my mind about this banana republic-like mess is that we don't really know who "they" are -- the "they" who conducted the search on Monday.

Is it "they" of the new, improved Mukasey DOJ (giving him the benefit of the doubt)?

Or is it "they" of the last 7 years, who've been excessively prosecuting Dems?

And did "they" use the same kind of excuse "they" used on Fieger's office? As I understand it, Fieger's office was ripped up and turned upside down, like an invading horde of Mongols descending on a village, looking for something. Was it the same one-document excuse?

It doesn't make sense to me that it was the later rather than the former, unless the junta has gone completely off their rocker to the point of going nuclear winter on their on kind. Rove's flunky was showing slides to the GSA that reflected the extremely negative impact that perceived corruption had on elections, yes? Why would they induce more damage -- unless somebody else more compliant, possibly cheaper and highly electable had been bought?

All depends on who "they" are.

Rayne, it is even worse than that. In addition to the two DOJs, Mukasey/non-Mukasey, you mention, Scruggs has a contempt citation issue in his Katrina insurance cases going on as well. What the insurance companies have done in the Gulf is unconscionable, and State Farm is, as is usually the case with insurance companies, the worst of the lot. What was Scruggs' big contempt you ask? He showed documents, that are extremely incriminating to State Farm, to the Mississippi Attorney General. Ooooh; what a criminal. When this Judge Acker requested that Scruggs be charged with criminal contempt, even the DOJ declined to prosecute, so Judge Acker hired his own prosecutors to charge Scruggs on the contempt. Earlier this month, Scruggs' had the entire ND of Alabama Judiciary removed from handling the case. This entire scene in the Gulf is one giant clusterfuck. Scruggs has a lot of enemies. Two links on this if you are interested, both short.

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/06/15/judge-recommend-feds-prosecute-scruggs-for-criminal-contempt/

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/11/15/us-v-scruggs-entire-northern-district-of-alabama-recuses-itself/

Wow, bmaz. I think the single document for which "they" ripped up Scruggs' office must have have been an incriminating document like the one you just described.

If it was "they" of the second part, that would explain why it didn't show up in the indictment; it wasn't meant to. It was meant to disappear.

Yeesh.

bmaz -- btw, here's an interesting take I think you in particular will enjoy, in regards to charges against Scruggs: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2007/11/dickie-scruggs.html

Rayne = Thanks for that link. I pretty much agree with their analysis. I have long had a problem with the, um, "creative", way the Feds use 18 USC 1343/1346 in prosecutions. It is a vague statute set that, to the best of my knowledge, was not designed and intended for all of the contorted applications it has been given. But prosecutors will use any bludgeon they can find, and they have consistently found it easier to gain convictions in cases that are pretty thin by using this statute rather than the more traditional and germane fraud, bribery, extortion etc. statutes. My problem with the Scruggs indictment is that there is no convincing allegation, nor evidence, that I have seen so far that Scruggs committed a crime, or was an active conspirator. I am not saying it doesn't exist; but if it does, I sure haven't seen it. The indictment sounds really bad for Scruggs; but if you really look at it, there isn't much there in it as to real involvement by Scruggs. It boils down effectively to a tape recording of Balducci trying to convince Judge Lackey to go along with his bribe attempt by telling Lackey how tight he is with Scruggs and also the allegation that a check that Scruggs sent to Balducci's office under a cover letter stating it is for expenses on an unrelated case. I explained at 14:26 above why these kinds of letters and expense reimbursements are common between cooperating plaintiffs attorneys; so the fact that such a letter and check exists, by itself, does nothing for me absent a lot better proof that it indeed was not for the other unrelated case. As to the tape of Balducci trying to convince Judge Lackey, eh, I dunno. All Balducci really says is that he has talked to Scruggs about "this" and that Scruggs is the only other person "in the world that know anything about this". Well, he doesn't say what, or how much, or about which parts, Scruggs "knows about". Secondly, Balducci, a secondary attorney on the plaintiff's side is trying to bribe a judge on the case. But here's the deal, even assuming the judge were amenable to such a bribe, there is no way he would go for it without knowing where the powerful lead plaintiff's attorney, Scruggs, is at. So, Balducci can't make the sale to the judge on the scheme without saying Scruggs is down with the plan, whether he really is, or not. Balducci is guilty as hell, no question; but they don't give a shit about Balducci, they want Scruggs. Once they have nabbed Balducci, they make it VERY clear to him that his only way out with a semblance of his life intact is to inculpate Scruggs, and they damn well don't really care if it is true or not, only that it will hold up. Aand for anybody out there that thinks prosecutors don't work this way; I've got news for you, not all do, but an awful lot of them do (especially down in the Gulf region from all the stories we have been seeing) and it happens every day in every major courthouse in the country. I don't know what really happened here, and am certainly not saying my hypothetical thoughts are correct. But, from what evidence we have seen so far, they hold as much water as the government's allegations. Time will tell, but something just doesn't smell right to me; not to mention that I am hard pressed to believe that Scruggs would be this incompetent and sloppy,

bmaz -- which begs the question, why did Lott leave? I can't help feeling there's something else going on here besides the messy indictment of Scruggs, something that put Lott personally over a barrel.

Who is the chicken and who is the egg? Did Lott leave because Scruggs got indicted (everybody's initial assumption) or did Scruggs get indicted because Lott was leaving (just as likely if you ask me)? I have no idea why Lott left, Scruggs may be a part of it; maybe not. I dunno. Personally, I can't see Lott resigning over the Scruggs indictment; he didn't do any bribing of anybody, there is no chatter of him being directly involved, it may be an annoying event to him, but not a career ender.

It sounds to me like Scruggs was causing a corporation problems and they decided to take him out of the picture with contempt and then this other garbage.

Why is it that all we get with this Bush administration era is more and more garbage.

Let's get past the garbage.

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