During a deposition last week, Jim Robie, an attorney for State Farm Insurance, alleged that former Mississippi senator Trent Lott had “urged witnesses to give false information in a Hurricane Katrina lawsuit.” Questioning Lott’s nephew, Zach Scruggs, Robie asked if it had been his “custom” to have Lott “contact and encourage witnesses to give false information.” Scruggs refused to answer, invoking the Fifth Amendment.
In an interview with LegalNewsline, Robie said Lott had “initiated contact with people surrounding” the case involving alleged efforts to “defraud” State Farm:
“Clearly, the record couldn’t be more plain that Sen. Lott and his associates were talking to people that were key advisers to Mr. Scruggs, paid consultants and those who were creating an illusion that simply doesn’t have any basic fact,” Robie told Legal Newsline on Thursday. […]
Robie said Lott, a leading Republican, initiated contact with people surrounding this case, something unprecedented for a U.S. Senator.
“Have you ever had a U.S. Senator call you?” he asked rhetorically.
A spokesman for Lott’s lobbying firm told Legal Newsline that “the former senator had no interest in justifying the implication with a response.”
Lott has previously been reported to have used his position in the Senate to put pressure on State Farm. In May, the New Yorker reported:
Charles Chamness, the C.E.O. of a national insurance trade association, has claimed that Lott had threatened him, in a telephone call, with “bringing down State Farm and the industry.” Lott also co-sponsored a proposal to strip the insurance industry of an antitrust exemption that had been in place since the nineteen-forties.
Robie says “he will continue his efforts to depose both Richard and Zach Scruggs, during which he will probe the influence of Lott.”