Mississippi: Trent Lott’s Brother-in-Law Embroiled in Bribery Scandal/Update on Medgar Evers Murder Trial

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs

"... Langston is now aiding the government in its investigation of another alleged scheme, this one involving Scruggs and Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter, according to court records. ... They allegedly tried to influence DeLaughter by promising that Scruggs' brother-in-law, former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, would help the judge get appointed to the federal bench if he ruled in Scruggs' favor. ... DeLaughter is well-known for prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the NAACP. ..."

Record Reveals Bribery Investigation Continues

By HOLBROOK MOHR, Nov. 13, 2008

A wealthy attorney who helped put legendary trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs behind bars has testified before a federal grand jury in a bribery investigation, court records briefly posted on the Internet revealed.

Booneville attorney Joey Langston was representing Scruggs when Scruggs became entangled in a high-profile bribery scandal last year. But it wasn't long before the FBI raided Langston's office and pressured him to turn on his client.

Scruggs was one of the nation's most powerful attorneys before being receiving a five-year prison sentence on a conspiracy conviction. He was accused of conspiring to pay a judge $50,000 for a favorable ruling in a case involving $26.5 million in legal fees from Hurricane Katrina cases.

Scruggs had gained national prominence, and hundreds of millions of dollars, by leading the charge against tobacco companies in the 1990s that led to a multibillion-dollar settlement. His efforts were portrayed in the 1999 film "The Insider" starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

Langston is now aiding the government in its investigation of another alleged scheme, this one involving Scruggs and Hinds County Judge Bobby DeLaughter, according to court records. Langston testified before a federal grand jury Oct. 23, the records show.

Prosecutors have indicated they believe Scruggs and Langston enlisted the help of former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters. They allegedly tried to influence DeLaughter by promising that Scruggs' brother-in-law, former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, would help the judge get appointed to the federal bench if he ruled in Scruggs' favor. DeLaughter used to work for Peters.

Lott called DeLaughter and several other people about an open seat on the federal bench, but he recommended someone else for the job, Brett Boyles, the former senator's chief of staff, has said. Lott has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The revelation about a grand jury hearing came in a six-page document that was briefly - and apparently accidentally - posted on a federal court Web site. The document, since removed from the Web site and sealed, was provided to The Associated Press by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper in Tupelo.

The Tupelo daily reported on the document on its Web site Thursday.

In the document, prosecutors ask a federal judge to give Langston a reduced sentence for his help in the investigations.

"It is anticipated that his cooperation will continue through the prosecution of subsequent defendants now under investigation," the document says. "His cooperation has been exhaustive and has resulted in some risk to Mr. Langston and his family."

An individual in a van that appeared to be "packed with electronic equipment" was discovered on Langston's property Oct. 3, according to the document. It also said Langston has had a heart attack since he began working with the government.

Langston met with investigators several times, "admitting and detailing his role in Dickie Scruggs' legal team's efforts to influence Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter," according to court records.

DeLaughter has insisted he did nothing wrong, and Langston is the only one who has been charged in the case. Langston pleaded guilty to conspiracy to corruptly influence an elected official; his sentencing is pending. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of three years.

DeLaughter is well-known for prosecuting Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the NAACP. The trial was made into the 1996 movie "Ghosts of Mississippi," with Alec Baldwin playing DeLaughter.

A message left Thursday with the U.S. attorney's office was not immediately returned. Tony Farese, Langston's lawyer, said Thursday that he could not comment. Messages left for DeLaughter and Peters were not immediately returned.

In the case involving Katrina legal fees, Scruggs was sentenced in June and is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Kentucky for low- and minimum-security inmates.

http://www.sunherald.com/306/story/953659.html