Opinions Vary on Hood

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

It was Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci who settled the MCI/ WorldCom case which awarded the state $100 million. They have both entered guilty pleas in separate cases of attempting to bribe a judge.

Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Dickie Scruggs' law firm worked together to win settlements against State Farm after Katrina. Hood has said if he did file state charges it would be like "prosecuting relatives".

"If he felt like that would present difficulty for him or cause him not to do his job fully or create some sort of conflict of interest, there are certainly people out there who would take that responsibility on," said state Rep. Phillip Gunn, a Republican.

Gunn said Hood could appoint a special assistant attorney general to try the case for the state. Former chief of staff under Republican governor Kirk Fordice and Madison attorney, Andy Taggart, agreed.

"The law clearly provides him authority to raise someone else to do that and to divest that someone else with the powers and authority of his office and that's what he ought to do," said Taggart.

But so far Hood hasn't made a move. And others say they believe he has the right as attorney general not to prosecute.

"We have prosecution all the time with jurisdiction in both the state and federal government, and we don't get involved in one or the other. So I would leave that up to the attorney general to make that kind of decision," said state Rep. Ed Blackmon, a Democrat.

Rep. Earle Banks, a Democrat, said as long as those accused are prosecuted he feels justice will be done.

"The fact is it's his call as the attorney general to do it," said Banks. "There are federal charges involved, I'm certain. And the feds might do a better job doing this than Attorney General Hood. But the point is, if they are guilty they should be prosecuted by someone, state or federal."

Dickie Scruggs, his son, Zach Scruggs, and law partner Sidney Backstrom, are scheduled to go to trial Mar. 31.

In a news release Tuesday, Hood chided Republican lawmakers for allegedly killing a wiretap bill that would provide additional tools to fight crime, including cases involving public corruption.

"How can these lawmakers criticize the handling of public corruption cases when they refuse to provide the tools necessary to prosecute these cases? In light of the current bribery cases being prosecuted by my colleagues at the federal level, it is important to note the investigatory methods used to bring those cases," said Hood in a statement.

Hood said the wiretap bill would require a judge to authorize the use of wiretaps based on evidence of probable cause. It also requires specific course training on the legal and technical aspects of interception and use of wire, oral and other communications approved by the attorney general.

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