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Lawyer Who Took On Tobacco is Sentenced

POSTED: 03:46 PM ET, 06/27/2008 by The Editors

The Mississippi lawyer who became one of the wealthiest civil lawsuit attorneys in the country by taking on tobacco, asbestos and insurance companies was sentenced today to five years in prison for conspiring to bribe a judge.

Richard Scruggs is famed for taking on Big Tobacco with evidence from insiders that the cigarette companies knew for decades about the harmful effects of their products. His effort, outlined in the film "The Insider," won multibillion-dollar settlements for states seeking reimbursement for their Medicaid expenditures -- and garnered Scruggs fees estimated at nearly $1 billion over 25 years.

Scruggs was indicted last fall along with his son and three associates. Scruggs pleaded guilty in March to participating in a scheme to bribe a state judge in a dispute over $26.5 million in legal fees from a mass settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance cases. Last month, Peter Boyer of the New Yorker profiled Scruggs and the bizarre tale that led to his indictment and guilty plea.

Scruggs is the brother-in-law of former Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott but is a longtime Democrat.

In court today he appeared to nearly faint as a federal judge scolded him for his conduct. "I could not be more ashamed of where I am today, mixed up in a judicial bribery scheme," Scruggs told the judge. "I have disappointed everyone in my life."

By The Editors |  June 27, 2008; 3:46 PM ET
Previous: Justice Department Official Fired After No-Show | Next: A "Two-Fer" for Congressman Etheridge

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