Judge from Eaton Aerospace Trade Secrets Case to Plead Guilty to Lying to FBI in Unrelated Scruggs Attorney Fee Case
We have reported about the Eaton Aerospace trade secrets matter before: http://wombletradesecrets.blogspot.com/2009/01/federal-indictments-in-eaton-aerospace.html. That report was about the criminal indictments of the former employees. But there was a civil case between Eaton Aerospace and Frisby, too.
In the civil case, the trade secrets allegedly misappropriated and at issue relate to hydraulic pumps and motors for military and commercial aerospace applications. The five former employees -- Rodney Case, Kevin Clark, Mike Fulton, Douglas Murphy and James Ward -- are co-defendants with Frisby (now known as Triumph Actuation Systems).
The judge assigned to the case was Judge Bobby DeLaughter. Judge DeLaughter's former boss and mentor is a Mississippi attorney named Ed Peters, an attorney who formerly represented Eaton as local counsel in the trade secrets case. Well, Judge DeLaughter is allegedly pleading guilty to lying to the FBI in an investigation of his judicial conduct in an unrelated case. DeLaughter has apparently admitted to lying to an FBI agent investigating a legal fees dispute lawsuit he was assigned to involving former mega-attorney attorney Dickie Scruggs. Peters is alleged to have played a key role in the Scruggs' rulings from Judge DeLaughter. Here is a copy of the indictment of DeLaughter: http://letterofapology.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/010609-delaughter-indictment.pdf.
We note that Frisby's attorneys maintain rulings from DeLaughter began going in Eaton's favor when Peters became one of Eaton's attorneys - but we've not reviewed any reliable evidence that substantiates this allegation. If Frisby attorneys can prove DeLaughter was improperly influenced by Peters and Eaton knew about it, Eaton's lawsuit and previous rulings made by DeLaughter could be reviewed and/or overturned. What's clear is that DeLaughter's plea is making a mess of things down in Mississippi.
Eaton attorneys and officials have said the company hasn't done anything wrong. They said if Peters did anything improper, it was without the company's knowledge. Peters has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, but he voluntarily relinquished his law licenses.
What ultimate impact Judge DeLaughter's guilty plea with have on this civil misappropriation case can only wait to be seen. We'll report back.
AUTHOR'S NOTE ON REVISION TO TEXT OF THIS BLOG POST:
We inadvertently reported that the indictments against the five former Eaton Aerospace employees had been "thrown out" by the federal judge assigned to the matter. This was incorrect. The five indictments have not been thrown out. See: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20090804/NEWS/90804014/Miss.+trade+secrets+trial+postponed United States District Judge Barbour has continued the trial date in this matter, noting: "The court enters this order based on the court's finding that this case is so unusual and complex due to the nature of the prosecution, the number of defendants, and the volume of discovery that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits established by the Speedy Trial Act." Our apologies for the error - although some of the indictments were originally dismissed, a number of the indictments stand and trial of these matters looks likely.