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Originally published Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 9:08 AM

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Losing appeal, Scruggs wants to go back to prison

After losing a key appeal, disbarred Mississippi attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs asked to return to federal prison to resume serving out a seven-year prison sentence for trying to illegally influence a judge.

Associated Press

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JACKSON, Miss. —

After losing a key appeal, disbarred Mississippi attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs asked to return to federal prison to resume serving out a seven-year prison sentence for trying to illegally influence a judge.

Scruggs, 66, was freed on $2 million bond in December while he appealed a conviction for improperly influencing then-Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter. The judge was presiding over a lawsuit between Scruggs and another lawyer who were fighting over money.

Prosecutors say Scruggs told DeLaughter he would recommend him to Scruggs' brother-in-law, then-Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, for an appointment to the federal bench. Lott, who has since retired and was not charged with wrongdoing, said he made a courtesy call to DeLaughter, but recommended someone else.

Scruggs, an architect of the multibillion dollar tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, has asked to report to a prison in Montgomery, Ala., by April 29.

Scruggs pleaded guilty in 2009 to honest services fraud, but when the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of honest services laws in June 2010, he appealed. Scruggs argued that he was innocent of a crime to which he pleaded guilty.

Scruggs said he offered DeLaughter nothing of value and only endorsed his candidacy for a judgeship.

A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his appeal.

"Scruggs's recommendation to his senator brother-in-law was a thing of value, at least to DeLaughter. There is abundant testimony regarding the `deal' or `arrangement' that they reached shortly thereafter, and of DeLaughter's official actions in exchange for the bribe," the panel wrote.

Scruggs and DeLaughter entered a corrupt agreement and "DeLaughter kept his end of the bargain" by ruling in Scruggs' favor and reviewing Scruggs' motions before they were filed, the panel wrote.

In a court filing Friday, Scruggs' lawyer said he may ask the 5th Circuit for a rehearing or petition the U.S. Supreme Court, but there's no guarantee that either will hear the case, potentially prolonging the completion of his sentence.

Scruggs was serving a five-year sentence on a 2008 conviction in another corruption case when he was sentenced to seven years in February 2009. The sentences were to run concurrently.

DeLaughter, who made a name for himself as a prosecutor in 1994 when he helped convict Byron de la Beckwith for the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, pleaded guilty in 2009 to lying to the FBI.

He served an 18-month sentence and was released.

The Evers' case was the basis for the 1996 movie "Ghosts of Mississippi," with Alec Baldwin playing DeLaughter. DeLaughter also wrote a book about the prosecution.

Scruggs efforts in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s were portrayed in the 1999 film "The Insider" starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

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