The book Kings of Tort, by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, appears to disclose the terms of Ed Peters’ immunity deal with the government.
On page 199, the book states that in exchange for immunity, “Peters would surrender his law license, resign from the bar permanently, and forfeit all monies received from Scruggs and Langston, in addition to
[throwing Bobby DeLaughter under the bus] testifying truthfully.” That’s it.
Ironically, while DOJ continues to refuse to disclose Peters’ agreement because there is “no public interest” in it, Dawson disclosed the terms of the agreement in a book that has garnered wide public interest.
It appears that Dawson wrote the section of the book covering the Scruggs prosecution, including Peters’ role in the case. The book states that “immunity for Peters was a
travesty of justice tough call.” The book justifies the decision by asserting that Peters corroborated Balducci’s information in the DeLaughter bribery case and caused Joey Langston to plead guilty and testify against Scruggs. It states that without Peters’ testimony, a Scruggs II [DeLaughter case] prosecution would not have been be possible.
This assertion, along with the decision to grant Peters immunity, does not make sense. The book provides little factual support for the conclusion and other facts cited in the book do not support the assertion that the Scruggs II prosecution depended on Peters.
Elsewhere, the book suggests that Langston, who was not involved in the scheme to bribe Judge Lackey, did not trust Scruggs and was eager to reach a deal with the government before Scruggs turned on him. The book also states that the government was holding a RICO prosecution over Langston’s head, which could have led to a divestiture of much or all of Langston’s wealth earned from his law practice. Obviously, getting to keep his money would have been a huge motivation for Langston agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate.
In Scruggs I Balducci immediately confessed and cooperated, leading to the disclosure of the DeLaughter bribe in Scruggs II. Patterson and Backstrom also quickly agreed to play ball with the government, according to the book. Patterson was involved in the DeLaughter bribery and could corroborate Balducci’s testimony. Langston was approached next and was eager to cooperate as well, according to the book.
The book does not cite facts that make it sound like the government needed Peters to get to Langston. Instead, it looks like they could have gotten to Langston with Balducci’s and Patterson’s testimony. From there, they could have gotten to Peters with the testimony of Balducci, Langston and Patterson. Then, Peters would have had to turn on DeLaughter in order to reduce Peters’ prison sentence. Immunity to one individual was not necessary.
In addition, there are other reasons that the theory that granting Peters immunity was necessary does not make sense. If the Scruggs II prosecution depended on Peters, then Peters could have kept his protege Bobby DeLaughter out of jail and on the bench simply by keeping his mouth shut. And since there would have been no Scruggs II prosecution, Peters would have kept his law license and the money he was paid for bribing DeLaughter and kept Langston and everyone else from being prosecuted in Scruggs II.
Again, this does not make sense. If this were true, then Peters would have kept his mouth shut.
My interpretation of this is that Dawson is making a poor attempt to justify a bad decision. If all these guys were so eager to plead guilty, then the government did not need to give anyone immunity. There were rumors that the government lawyers panicked and hastily agreed to grant Peters immunity. Conspiracy theorists will have more sinister explanations, but I do not buy an argument that the government lawyers were tainted in favor of Peters. It appears to have been either a poor decision made in haste, or there is more to the story than disclosed in the book.
I recognize that it’s easy to criticize a decision on the back-end when everyone knows what eventually happened. But Dawson should be able to justify the decision in the book and did not.
The book spreads the blame for the admittedly
bad controversial decision among the entire prosecution trial team, which included Dawson, Asst. U.S. Atty. Bob Norman and Asst. U.S. Atty. Dave Sanders, and U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee.