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NEWS Peters, figure in judicial scandals, not pursued By Jerry Mitchell 1,159 words 9 October 2011 Clarion-Ledger CLDG

A1 English (c) Copyright 2011, Clarion-Ledger. All Rights Reserved. Former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters admitted influencing then-Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter in the trade secrets lawsuit involving Eaton Aerospace, FBI documents show. "Peters believes that he had influence over DeLaughter in the case," read the Sept. 9, 2008, FBI statement taken by Peters. But there has been no move by authorities to pursue a case against Peters. "It seems curious," said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. "Maybe federal prosecutors are just exercising discretion because he cooperated in the other case. Still he gets the advantage that others might not." Peters could not be located for comment. His attorney, Cynthia Stewart, did not return a call for comment. The investigation of now disbarred trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs was one of the most sweeping judicial bribery cases in Mississippi, bringing down some of the most powerful lawyers in the state. Peters, now 73, however, was not one of them. He had spent much of his nearly three decades as a prosecutor dodging accusations of corruption and controversies. In 1975, a jury acquitted him on extortion charges. In the Scruggs case, he received immunity in exchange for cooperating with the FBI, telling his role in influencing DeLaughter in the legal fees dispute litigation, but Peters did have to give up his law license. Scruggs received more than five years in federal prison after pleading guilty in two unrelated judicial influence cases. He is slated to be released in 2015, but his lawyers are seeking to build a case for his honest services conviction to be tossed out. DeLaughter was released from prison in April after receiving an 18-month sentence. He had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about how many times he spoke to Peters about a different case he was hearing - this one involving a legal fees dispute involving Scruggs that could have cost Scruggs more than $15 million. At the time of DeLaughter's sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Norman of Oxford told The ClarionLedger he wished authorities could have prosecuted Peters in the Scruggs case. Federal prosecutors said then the door was open for authorities to pursue a case against Peters in connection with the $1 billion Eaton lawsuit, which was dismissed in January by Circuit Judge Swan Yerger. "The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that Eaton and its counsel were aware of and, in fact, sanctioned Peters' clandestine actions, either through affirmation or inaction, with then-Judge DeLaughter, for Eaton's benefit," Yerger wrote in his order dismissing Eaton's lawsuit against rival Frisby Aerospace. Eaton officials have insisted they were victimized by Peters. "The true victim is the justice system and its integrity," concluded Yerger, who issued a $1.5 million sanction against Eaton for intentionally withholding records - a sanction upheld by the state Supreme Court. Eaton is appealing the dismissal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Page 1 of 3 2011 Factiva, Inc. All rights reserved.

"We didn't ask Ed Peters to influence Bobby DeLaughter or anybody else in any way," said Don McGrath, senior vice president of communications for Eaton. He pointed out the litigation centered on Eaton's accusation that former Eaton engineers stole thousands of documents with trade secrets developed at the company's Jackson operation that were taken to a competitor. Two former Eaton engineers remain charged with possession of trade secrets and conspiracy to defraud. No date has been set for trial. "We're still working with the U.S. Attorney's office with regard to the former engineers," McGrath said. The engineers are accused of stealing trade secrets from Jackson-based Eaton Aerospace and of taking them to Frisby Aerospace in Clemmons, N.C., where they started working in January 2002. Frisby is now known as Triumph Actuation Systems. Court documents filed by prosecutors detail hundreds of items FBI agents seized from Frisby offices, many of which still bore the name of Eaton or Vickers, which Eaton acquired in 1999. In the FBI statement, Peters discussed being hired by Eaton's attorneys, but he was never listed as an attorney of record in the case. In the statement, Peters admitted having at least one private conversation with DeLaughter, discussing the Eaton lawsuit. DeLaughter had appointed Oxford lawyer Jack Dunbar as a special master to oversee pretrial proceedings in the case but told Peters, according to the statement, that he really didn't use special masters and didn't know who to appoint. "Peters told DeLaughter that Larry Latham would make a good special master," the statement says. After talking to Peters, DeLaughter changed the special master's report to a position helpful to Eaton, the statement says. On Oct. 29, 2007, DeLaughter removed Dunbar. Months later, DeLaughter appointed Latham as the new special master. Upon hearing the FBI statement, Latham remarked, "I'll be damned." In fall 2007, he said Peters told him he was being considered for appointment as a special master in the Eaton lawsuit. He said Peters later called back, saying not to bring up his name. Sensing something wasn't right, Latham stepped down shortly after being appointed as a special master. In a trade secrets lawsuit, it would make sense for a company to hire one of the best lawyers in that field and also hire a Mississippi lawyer who knew the courts and the state law, he said. Instead the company hired Peters, who had served as district attorney, he said. Oxford lawyer Tom Freeland, who has covered the case closely on his website, North Mississippi Commentor,, said Peters' statements "show a lot more about what was going on inside and how corrupt it was." Elsewhere in the FBI statement, Peters described how he had been approached by both sides in the same lawsuit involving a fatality. "It's totally unethical," Freeland said. "Peters is on both sides of a transaction, hoping money shakes loose." What has surprised him is the Scruggs cases weren't pursued by Mississippi prosecutors. "These are state crimes, too," Freeland said. "Both local and statewide prosecutors have left it alone." Attorney General Jim Hood sent letters to the local district attorneys in those counties, offering his assistance to them. Page 2 of 3 2011 Factiva, Inc. All rights reserved.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore of New Albany said his office met with federal prosecutors and let them know if there was anything that needed to be pursued, he would. "We felt like any insertion of our office into that whole mess would have gained very little as far as criminal justice is concerned," he said. "It would have been more attention-seeking than justice." He added that his office has "our hands full with our dockets." "We didn't ask Ed Peters to influence Bobby DeLaughter or anybody else in any way." Don McGrath, senior vice president of communications for Eaton Aerospace To comment on this story, call Jerry Mitchell at (601) 961-7064. You can follow him at Document CLDG000020111015e7a90002n

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