That’s a question that was asked in this weekend’s Clarion-Ledger article by Jerry Mitchell following the unsealing of Ed Peters’ grand jury testimony [available here courtesy of NMC] in Scruggs-gate.
The photo to the right is of Peters and Bobby DeLaughter. Now we know what they are smiling about.
The article quotes Oxford lawyer and blogger Tom Freeland (NMC) on this issue and states:
Oxford lawyer Tom Freeland, who has covered the case closely on his website, North Mississippi Commentor, nmisscommentor.com, said Peters’ statements "show a lot more about what was going on inside and how corrupt it was."
Elsewhere in the FBI statement, Peters described how he had been approached by both sides in the same lawsuit involving a fatality.
"It’s totally unethical," Freeland said. "Peters is on both sides of a transaction, hoping money shakes loose."
What has surprised him is the Scruggs cases weren’t pursued by Mississippi prosecutors.
"These are state crimes, too," Freeland said. "Both local and statewide prosecutors have left it alone."
Attorney General Jim Hood sent letters to the local district attorneys in those counties, offering his assistance to them.
District Attorney Ben Creekmore of New Albany said his office met with federal prosecutors and let them know if there was anything that needed to be pursued, he would.
"We felt like any insertion of our office into that whole mess would have gained very little as far as criminal justice is concerned," he said. "It would have been more attention-seeking than justice."
He added that his office has "our hands full with our dockets."
I raised this question in 2010 in this post about a Sid Salter interview of Rankin County District Attorney Michael Guest. Salter raised the question in 2008 in a column that he quotes in his comment responding to my 2010 blog post, and took issue to Johnny Come Lately’s on this issue:
District attorneys in multiple venues in Mississippi have already spoken to the fact that since Mississippi’s attorney general didn’t prosecute public corruption cases against Peters, DeLaughter, Langston, Scruggs, Balducci, Patterson, et al, then they didn’t think they had the resources to go after such charges either. If you will recall in the Neshoba County state charges against former Klansmen Edgar Ray Killen and other high profile cases, the local DA got the active support of General Hood’s office and his personal intervention in the case.
But Hood took a pass on the judicial bribery cases altogether — all of them.
Where were you in 2008 on this issue, Mr. Thomas? Massaging your "certified civil trial advocate" plaque?
What color is that, Bubba?
Next time you have a question about how I go about the interview process, be sure and weigh in again. I love interaction with "certified civil trial advocates" — being a mere mortal and all.
I still can’t get over the Salter personal attack, but that’s neither here nor there.
I find it interesting how this issue has evolved since Salter first raised the question in 2008. Salter seemed to blame Attorney General Jim Hood for there being no State prosecution against Peters. But Jerry Mitchell’s 2011 article states that General Hood offered to assist local D.A.’s in prosecutions. And there were at least three D.A. jurisdictions where charges could have been brought. And the feds could have prosecuted too in either the Northern or Southern Districts.
So who’s to blame for what many agree is an injustice that Peters was never charged? I never came up with a good answer to this question. I heard a lot of theories; many of which made sense. But I never heard what I thought was a good definitive answer.
On the issue of Eaton’s culpability for Peters’ actions in the Eaton v. Frisby case, Tom Freeland makes a good point at NMC:
It strikes me that the question isn’t whether Ed Peters, hired as a lawyer by Eaton, was supposed to influence the judge– after all, isn’t that what lawyers do? The question is whether Peters (who was hired secretly and off the record, a fact Eaton’s legal pleadings keep omitting) was hired to improperly influence Judge DeLaughter.
Specifically, I would like to see Eaton’s answer to these two questions that I posed in this 2009 post:
I would like to see Eaton and McGrath answer these two questions:
- exactly who told you that you should hire Ed Peters?
- what was the reason(s) you were given for why you should hire Peters?
Because let’s face it: somebody on the Eaton side of the ‘v’ knew that they were hiring Peters to improperly influence DeLaughter. Or at a minimum, they figured it out pretty quickly that that’s what Peters was doing when he came back reporting to them on what he was doing.
Think about it. In the Scruggs v. Wilson case Scruggs’ lawyers knew every move Peters made in communicating with DeLaughter. Eaton v. Frisby was a very complicated trade secrets case. Peters was not Eaton’s primary lawyer—not even close. But we are supposed to believe that—completely on his own—Peters got up to speed on the details of the case and then discussed them with DeLaughter? Come on.
If you haven’t seen it already, you want to check out this recent NMC post on Eaton v. Frisby. NMC also has Ed Peters’ 302 Report here, which details Peters’ involvement in the case. In the 302 report, Peters states that he was hired by Eaton lawyer Mike Shauman of the Quarles Brady law firm in Milwaukee and that Jackson lawyer Mike Allred was Eaton’s local counsel. It’s impossible to read Peter’s account of his improper meeting with DeLaughter about the Eaton case without concluding that the Eaton camp knew about the meeting.