Miss. judge wants corruption charges dropped

Published 9:06 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A circuit judge fighting corruption charges only received a “meaningless courtesy call” rather than anything of value and the bulk of the case against him should be dropped, his lawyers have argued.

Attorneys for Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter said in court papers filed Tuesday that the case boils down to a courtesy call from a U.S. Senator and does not constitute a crime.

DeLaughter, noted for a high-profile prosecution of a white supremacist assassin in the 1990s, is accused of exchanging favorable rulings for consideration for a seat on the federal bench. He pleaded not guilty and denies doing anything wrong. Trial is set for August.

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Prosecutors say imprisoned former lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs influenced DeLaughter by promising to help him get the federal appointment with his high-powered connections, specifically then-U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, Scruggs’ brother-in-law.

Scruggs is serving a total of seven years for his role in two alleged bribery conspiracies, one involving a different judge, and is cooperating with authorities.

DeLaughter is charged with conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud and obstruction. The motion, which did not address the obstruction charge, argues the conspiracy and mail fraud counts should be thrown out. It says bribery is “the exchange of (or an agreement to exchange) official action for something of value.”