Miss. Attorney Pleads Guilty, Cooperating in Scruggs Katrina Case

December 7, 2007

Mississippi Lawyer Timothy Balducci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a judge and is assisting federal prosecutors in a case involving one of the nation’s wealthiest trial lawyers.

Balducci is allegedly the lawyer who physically delivered thousands of dollars to a judge in exchange for a favorable ruling in case involving $26.5 million in disputed legal fees from a Hurricane Katrina insurance settlement. A 13-page indictment in the case claims Balducci made the bribe at the behest of prominent attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others in Scruggs’ firms.

Scruggs and the others deny the claims.

Scruggs’ son and law partner, Zach Scruggs, was also charged in the case.

Balducci appeared in federal court in Oxford about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. By 4 p.m., Balducci had entered a plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to bribe an elected state official. No sentencing date was set and Balducci was released on his own recognizance.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, in a plea agreement document filed with the federal court, said Balducci had already cooperated with the government in its investigation of Scruggs and would be doing more to help the government’s case.

Balducci’s court appearance came a week after Scruggs and the others were in court and pleaded not guilty to charges against them.

Balducci is accused in a federal indictment of bribing state Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey earlier this year at the behest of Richard Scruggs. The charge carries a five-year sentence.

Richard Scruggs, whose brother-in-law is Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., earned millions from asbestos litigation and from his role in brokering a multibillion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies in the mid-1990s.

His case against the tobacco companies was portrayed in the 1999 movie “The Insider,” starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

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