Minor Launches Legal Counter Attack - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/12/04

Minor Launches Legal Counter Attack

Indicted Biloxi attorney Paul Minor Monday launched a legal counter attack in the U.S. government's bribery and racketeering case against him.

Minor's attorney filed a motion in Jackson asking the charges be dropped. It accuses U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton of having an axe to grind with him, and targeting him for selective prosecution.

You'll remember, last July, a federal grand jury indicted Minor and four others, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, his former wife Jennifer Diaz, and former judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield. All were charged with bribery and have pleaded not guility. Minor is also charged with racketeering.

Prosecutors say Minor paid off the judges's campaign loans in exchange for favorable rulings in cases.

One of Paul Minor's attorneys, Joe Holloman, says Minor did nothing wrong when he contributed to judges campaigns and socialized with them while still expecting an impartial ruling on the merits of cases they heard.

"The crux of the motion which speaks for itself is that Mr. Minor was treated very differently from others who engaged in similar conduct. We argue that it's selective prosecution and we ask the court to dismiss the indictment," Holloman said.

One of the others Holloman refers to, according to the motion, is Pascagoula attorney Dickie Scruggs. Scruggs and his wife have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican party. Minor says Scruggs' strong ties to the Republicans makes him quote virtually untouchable.

Minor also questions former Attorney General Mike Moore's relationship with Scruggs. Scruggs gave money to Moore in his 1999 campaign, and Moore picked Scruggs to lead Mississippi's battle against big tobacco.

Minor says Moore correctly distanced himself when the feds began investigation judicial misconduct. But Minor points out that Moore drove Scruggs to the federal courthouse last year testify before the grand jury investigator minor. Minor says, that implies Moore gave Scruggs special treatment.

Moore says this is a federal case with no state charges involved, and Moore says he can't imagine what kind of treatment he would have given Scruggs.

Scruggs is out of the country, but his New York publicist issued this statement: "Mr. Scruggs is not responsible for Mr. Minor's actions or the allegations against Mr. Minor. Nor has Mr. Scruggs sought or received special treatment."

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton says it is not proper to dicuss the case except in court. He says he will file a response to Paul Minor's motion within the next ten days.

All five defendants are set to stand trial March first. Lampton says he doesn't know if this latest legal move will delay that.

by Marcia Hill

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