Attempt to bribe judge brings down ‘King of Torts’
JACKSON, Miss. – Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the legendary trial lawyer who made big business tremble every time he set foot in court, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to bribe a judge – a crime that could send him to prison and spell the end of his storied legal career.
Federal prosecutors are asking for the maximum of five years behind bars for the 61-year-old Scruggs, the multimillionaire “King of Torts” who combined a shrewd legal mind and aw-shucks country-lawyer charm to extract billions of dollars from the tobacco and asbestos industries, among others.
He will also lose his license to practice law.
Scruggs and another lawyer in his firm, Sidney Backstrom, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud for offering a $50,000 cash bribe to a Mississippi judge for a favorable ruling in a dispute over legal fees from a Hurricane Katrina insurance lawsuit.
In return for Scruggs’ guilty plea, prosecutors will recommend that the judge drop several other counts against him, including fraud.