American Scandal

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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

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Big Tobacco | The Whistleblowers | 2

Big Tobacco | The Whistleblowers | 2

Tue, 14 Jul 2020 09:00

A group of ambitious lawyers builds a case against Big Tobacco. But first, they'll need to convince the whistleblowers to speak up.

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It's Spring 1993 and an early morning in Berkeley, California. Lowell Bergman quickly walks through his house. He's wearing pajama bottoms and a faded sweatshirt. He's carrying a folder that's stuffed with documents. Bergman enters his study, pulls the door close behind him. Sunlights pouring through the windows there. It reflects off the many awards Bergman has received during his career as an investigative journalist. He closes the blinds and sits at his desk. Bergman is 47 and he's been working as a journalist for decades. But the buzz of excitement he feels right now never gets old. It's the tingle a reporter gets when he senses the potential for an explosive story. Bergman begins flipping through his role at X. Names and numbers whiz by. He belongs to experts, informants, spies. They're the sources that Bergman taps for his work as a producer for 60 minutes. He reaches the M's and stops. He's found the name. McGuire, Andrew McGuire. He's an old friend and just the expert Bergman needs. Bergman lifts the phone and dials. McGuire quickly picks up. Hello? Hey, Andrew, it's Lowell. I know it's a little early on a Saturday, but can you talk? Yeah, what's up? Well, I was reading the paper this morning when I hear a thump on my front porch. I go out and there's this great filled with papers. No sign of who left it, just the documents. They are very intriguing. Sounds like someone wants you to go on a fishing expedition. Yeah, they all but handed me the rod. Bergman pauses, weighing his words. If he tells McGuire anymore, there's no turning back. This story, like all great ones, will start to take on a life of its own. And might grow huge, change the world, but it could also stir up a major fight. Bergman swallows and makes the decision. So Andrew, here's the deal. There's a stamp that says confidential at the top of every page. And two other words, Philip Morris. Oh, my lord. Exactly. Well, what are the papers say? That's the problem. I have no idea. We're not talking about memos. It's all schematics, scientific data, charts. So I called you. You're the only expert I know that's up on this stuff, you know, tobacco. Well, can you describe the documents? What's in front of you right now? Bergman frowns. He scans the pages. It's just a bunch of numbers. And well, here's one that stands out. It says ignition propensity. OK. All right, great. So that's how a cigarette burns once it's lit. It's the intensity of the flame, duration. Pretty standard, though. Anything else? Oh, sorry. That's the only thing that makes any sense to me. OK, so I do know a lot about the legal sides of this. But for the technical stuff, you've got to talk to someone who's actually been on the inside. I'm not going to get someone who's on the inside. Where am I going to find someone like that? Well, actually, I know a guy, a biochemist. He worked for Brown and Williamson and Louisville. Ran research and development until they fired him. At that Bergman's ears perk up. Fire? For what? I'm not exactly sure. But if anyone can help you with those documents, it's this guy. Bergman, once again, feels the tingle. He can feel the potential of a huge story, and it surges through him with an electric force. He grabs his pen and flips to a blank card from his rollovex as McGuire continues. It's named YGAND. Jeffrey YGAND. Give him a call. Imagine he's got a few secrets of his own. Bergman's got a new lead, a box of documents, and that tingle that says he's on to something. But what? He's determined to find out. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins, and where it's headed, will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC, and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Some wondering, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Scandal. In the early 1990s, Big Tobacco was an all powerful industry and seemingly invincible. These products killed scores of Americans each year, but cigarette makers still denied that their products were dangerous and they kept winning their battles in court. Then in 1993, a Mississippi attorney landed on a promising strategy to hold Big Tobacco accountable. He enlisted a group of allies, and together, these anti tobacco lawyers saw a path to victory. But first, they needed proof that cigarette makers knew about the dangers of smoking. The evidence had to come from inside the industry, and any insider who provided information would be taking on an enormous risk. This is episode 2, The Whistleblowers. It's May, 1993, in Memphis, Tennessee. Mike Lewis sits on a plastic visitor's chair at Baptist Central Hospital. Warm breeze dressed into the small hospital room. Lewis is wearing khakis and a blue button down, but he shivers anyway. Maybe it's a physical response to all the get well soon cards lined up on the nightstand. Maybe it's that Jackie Thompson is lying in the hospital bed, looking frail, tired, and too weak to sit upright. Thompson is Lewis's close friend, and for years has felt like a family member, but now she's unrecognizable. Tubes snake across her blanket and lead to her veins and nose. Her skin looks yellowed and stretched over her cheekbones. Her once lustrous brown hair will never return. Lewis attempts a grin and asks Thompson if she's heard the one about the claustrophobic astronaut. The poor guy just needed some space. Thompson rolls her eyes at the corny joke and chuckles. But this triggers a series of coughs that makes Lewis wins. It only reminds him of the unbearable truth. Thompson is dying, dying of lung cancer, and there's nothing he can do about it. He wants a scream or punch something, but he knows there's no point in over the top gestures. Snow mystery why Thompson is on her deathbed at only 49 years old. She spent the better part of 30 years puffing two packs of Salem lights every day. Lewis watches as Thompson gradually closes her eyes. Alarmed, he jumps to his feet, but then he sees her chest continue to rise and fall. The nearby machine continued to beep. Lewis wipes his brow and exhales. Not today. Not now he thinks. She just needs to rest. He reaches out and gently grips his friend's wrist, heads for the door. But then stops. Something. Something tells him that this might be the last time he'll ever see her alive. In the hallway, Thompson's daughter Alice sits with a cup of tea. Her eyes are ringed with dark circles. She looks up as Lewis approaches and he says that her mother is resting. Alice nods and dabs at her eyes. She says she doesn't know how she'll manage afterwards. Her mom has health insurance, but they can't afford all the out of pocket costs. Lewis begins to speak, but Alice stops him. He knows he wants to help with money, but she can't accept it. Then she begins to cry. Lewis wraps her in a hug, and his mind begins to race as he thinks about how he can help. And he realizes something. Lewis is an attorney. He knows how the government works. All this medical care. It's not only expensive for people like Alice Thompson. It probably costs the state of Tennessee over a million dollars. Plus Jackie Thompson isn't the only person in the state with lungs charred from years of smoking. Lewis blinks at an idea, taking hold in his mind. He pulls away from the hug and tells Alice he's just realized something. He can't explain it all right now, but he thinks there could be a way to get resolution for Alice and her family, and something that would hold the makers of Salem cigarettes accountable. Lewis says he has to go, but he'll be in touch soon. Then he makes his way toward the elevator. He's walking so fast he almost trips. He has to make a phone call to an old friend, a fellow lawyer he admires, and who's never lied to him. He'll tell Lewis directly if his idea is merely crazy or about to change the world. Later that day, Mike Moore sits in his office in Jackson, Mississippi. It's well past time to head home, but Moore is still pouring over the legal brief for a local corruption case. Moore is Mississippi's attorney general. When he was elected five years ago, he promised to usher in a new era of fairness and accountability. For the 41 year old, with his curly moth of black hair, that's meant taking on some ambitious work, stamping out corruption, supporting civil rights lawsuits, endorsing black politicians. Mississippi has made a lot of progress during his tenure, but there's still plenty of work ahead. As Moore is reading, the telephone rings. His secretary says she has Mike Lewis on the line. Moore smiles and asks to have him put through. Moore has kept in touch with Lewis often on since their college days at the University of Mississippi. Lewis was a serious, but good natured student, and Moore is happy to see that he's matured into a fine lawyer. But Moore is surprised when Lewis greets him in a muted tone. Lewis tells Moore about his friend, Jackie Thompson, how heartbreaking it's been watching her dying of lung cancer. Lewis says he wants to do something for Thompson's family and for families like hers all over the country. He wants to take the cigarette makers to court. Moore is quiet for several seconds. He's heard lots of stories about people just like Jackie Thompson, but this one, coming from his old friend, has unexpectedly left him feeling wounded. And even though he's an attorney general, Moore feels hopeless. He tells Lewis the blunt truth. Moore would love to see Big Tobacco taken down, but there's little they can do through the courts. Big Tobacco argues that smoking is a voluntary choice. They say it's unfair to hold cigarette makers responsible for the smokers personal choices, and unfortunately, judges and juries tend to agree. Lewis knows this. The anti tobacco playbook has never worked, and he feels it never will. But then he asks, what if there's a different way? Moore keeps listening, his interest peaked. Lewis lays out a plan, his voice gaining energy. They could take the individual out of the equation. Treating smokers who are dying of cancer is extremely expensive, Lewis says. And ultimately, it's the state that covers most of these costs. So a state like Mississippi could sue the tobacco companies instead of the patients, Mississippi could demand reimbursement for the millions of dollars it spent treating Big Tobacco's customers. All 50 states could get in on this and force cigarette makers to pay billions, and Moore could lead the charge. Moore is dumbstruck. It's a simple idea, elegant, logical. He begins the case's office. Obviously, the plan isn't bulletproof, no plan is, and Big Tobacco is a united front with limitless money and an army of undefeated lawyers. Meanwhile, the state will need private lawyers that they can't afford. Attorneys would have to work on contingency, says Moore. So if they win, they'd get a big percentage of the settlement. Lewis agrees, all that makes sense. Big Tobacco's legal and financial arsenal is formidable, and no one said this was going to be easy. But Moore still says he wants to get this on the fast track. And he asked Lewis to make one more phone call to someone else Moore wants on the case. Another old classmate of theirs who specializes in cases like this. Richard Scruggs. If they're going to beat Big Tobacco, they'll want help from one of the country's best lawyers. It's late spring, 1993. Lowell Bergman walks quietly through a hillside neighborhood in Berkeley. Beside him is his wife, Sharon Tiller. They round a corner and Tiller remarks that Bergman has been unusually quiet. Bergman gazes into the distance and turns to his wife and apologizes. He tells her that he can't stop thinking about the crate of Philip Moore's documents in the study. He's been trying to reach this Jeffrey Wigan guy, but none of his voicemails have been returned, and he still can't make sense of any of the documents. Tiller is a journalist herself, a producer on the PBS documentary series Frontline. She suggests that Wigan's silence could mean he's too scared to talk. Maybe he guesses those Philip Moore's documents are hiding something of real significance. Bergman bristles. He knows the documents are significant. That's why he needs Wigan, he says. So go get him, Tiller responds. Bergman exhales frustrated, says that's what he's trying to do. His wife lays a hand on his shoulder and tells him not to give up, to call again as soon as they get home. When they return through the front door, Bergman heads straight for the phone and dials Wigan's number. This time, he hears a click on the other end. He stammeres a hello and then asks if he's speaking to Jeffrey Wigan. There's a long pause. When a woman's voice comes on and says, he doesn't want to talk to you. Bergman hears another click, then the dial tone. He hangs up, feeling more resolved than ever to speak with Wigan directly. His wife is right. It can take months to connect with the source. And if he fails to reach Wigan by phone, then he'll just have to fly to Louisville and get the job done in person. It's May 1993. The sun beats down on a cheap hotel that's just outside Greenville, Mississippi. Inside one of the hotel rooms, Mike Lewis writes quickly on a small whiteboard. The dry erase marker squeaks as he scribbles. Louis stops and sniffs. The odor of cigarette smoke lingers in the curtains from a previous guest. Louis shakes his head. He realizes that in the spirit of today's meeting, he probably should have requested a non smoking room. Louis checks his watch. Richard scruggs is never late. When right as the clock strikes four, Louis hears a knock. He opens the door and finds Scrugg standing before him, impeccably dressed as usual. He's wearing a knot a green tie and a smart navy blue suit. His black frame glasses, given the air of a professor. Louis thanks Scrugg for meeting him at this out of the way hotel. He needed an inconspicuous location for this very secret meeting. Scruggs tells him not to apologize. He understands completely. Louis invites him in. Once they're both in the room, Louis closes the door and locks. So how are you doing, Tiki? Honestly, we're going to lose the trial, Mike. I suppose that's to be expected, I guess. You try and fight big tobacco. You end up like every other poor bastard. I just don't know that there's a way to beat them in the courts. I just want to fold my cards, spend the next two months sitting on a beach somewhere, far away from here. Well, sure you don't want to go to, I don't know. Maybe another court room? No, no, I said beach. Louis strides over to his whiteboard and begins pointing to various sections. No beaches, not yet. This, this here, is how you are going to get revenge. It's how you're going to beat them once and for all. Scruggs runs a hand through his hair, takes stock of the board. The size is widen. After a moment, he steps back. Well, damn, this is genius. Oh, I think you mind to crack the code. The tobacco companies say that say smoking is all about personal decisions. Yeah, personal decisions. They choose to smoke moral roles. And if they get cancer, they chose to get it. You can't pin that on filaments. But this isn't a personal choice at all. This changes all of that. Yep. We're going after them at the state level on behalf of Mississippi. I don't think the state of Mississippi has ever smoked a single cigarette. Things brilliant, Mike. Louis can't help but smile. Richard Scruggs is one of the country's top litigators. His praise means something. So Dickie, want to help us out? Scruggs looks away from only. And then looks back at Louis with grin. Well, I suppose the beach will always be there when I'm done. So yeah, sure I'll help you. And if Mike more is involved, then we've got a real chance. But we still got to build the case. We need evidence. Proof that the companies new cigarettes were addictive and that they caused cancer. I'm not going to admit that. So do you have any sources? Louis frowns. He knows his entire plan hinges on this question. We'll just have to search for the needle in the haystack. We go card enough to find someone who's willing to tell the truth. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured? Miles from help. What would you do? This is actually happening. Our listeners, this is a very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening. Brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. September 29, 1993 in Louisville, Kentucky. Merrill Williams eases onto the couch of his dimly lit den. It's 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. He picks up the remote and flips through channels until he lands on the prices right. He rubbed his eyes. This isn't where he pictured himself three months ago when he came out of the ER consumed with the desire to do God's will. Williams leans back and his mind returns to the cardboard box stacked in his basement. Each is stuffed with papers that he smuggled out before losing his job as a paralegal. Williams remembers the shock of reading the documents, seeing the irrefutable evidence that the tobacco giant Brown and Williamson knew cigarettes are addictive and knew they caused cancer. Williams ended up hatching a plan. After Williams heart surgery, God came to him and told him to get a lawyer, one who would help expose B&W's deceptions. Williams found a lawyer and the man said he threatened the tobacco giant with a lawsuit on Williams behalf, but that was six months ago. He hasn't won any big victory since then and he still clearly isn't strong enough from his surgery to go out and get a new job. That's left him feeling tired and unhappy with himself. He sinks deeper into the couch, feeling a misery rippling through him. And that's when the phone rings. Remarkably it's his lawyer and he gets right to the point. He has bad news. Why a parent, his old law firm, filed a lawsuit against Williams this morning. They're aiming to take back all the documents his got. His lawyer starts to suggest that there are several ways to handle this, but Williams cuts them off and says they shouldn't discuss this any further over the phone. Williams hangs up. His stitch together heart thumps rapidly in his chest. Brown and Williamson now knows who he is and what he's done. Now they want to crush him. Williams breath grows short and he tries to study himself. He needs to be proactive. If this somehow turns into a criminal investigation, he can't be caught with boxes of confidential legal documents in his possession. His wife and kids sleep here. So Williams rises from the couch and grabs a roll of duct tape from the kitchen. Williams has a friend and Florida who will understand his situation. He'll get the evidence out of his house by shipping it to her. Williams then races to the basement and opens the door, roughing down the stairs as quickly as he can. Five months later, in February 1994, Lowell Bergman sits on the edge of his bed at the Seeobach Hotel. It's good to finally be here in Lul. Jeffrey Wigan has continued to ignore Bergman's attempts to contact him, so Bergman got on a plane. He spent the last few days driving around the city, hoping to get a sense of Lulville and his people. This morning, he drove past the Brown and Williamson building, trying to imagine what's happening inside, behind the security guards and closed doors. This is Bergman's job, seeking out clues, all in hopes of a breakthrough. When one happens, investigative reporting feels like the most rewarding job in the world. But breakthroughs don't come easy. Still Bergman has a few tricks up his sleeve to get around the dead ends, and he's about to try one of those tricks right now. He looks at the clock in his hotel room. It's 12.03 a.m. Bergman picks up the phone and dials Wigan's number. After two rings, he hears a tired man with a New York accent say hello. Bergman feels his chest grow tight. Right now, he must have Wiganed on the phone, and long last. Bergman speaks quickly, telling Wigan who he is, what he wants, and that he's flown here from California just for a chance at meeting him. There's a pause on the other end of the line, and the sound of shallow breath. Then Wigan's voice returns, furious. He asks Bergman what the hell he thinks he's doing, calling in the middle of the night. Bergman knows he can't let this spin out of control, so he tells Wigan the truth. This is an old trick among journalists. If someone's not returning your calls, call them at midnight. They'll probably be asleep and will pick up the phone. It's the last resort, but it works. Wigan is quiet. Bergman decides to break the silence. He says if Wigan is curious to meet him, he'll be waiting in the lobby of the Seal Box Hotel tomorrow at 11 a.m. There's another long pause. Then Bergman hears a sigh. Wigan says, okay, then hangs up. Bergman puts down the phone and leans back, feeling optimistic. Wigan sounded exhausted, not just because he was woken up late at night. Bergman gets the sense that there's a lot weighing down, Jeffrey Wigan. Hopefully he's finally ready to unburden himself. Bergman switches off the light and crawls into bed. In 11 hours, he'll find out if his hunch is correct. It's the next morning, and 10 minutes past 11. The lowell Bergman sits in the lobby of the Seal Box, waiting for Jeffrey Wigan. Bergman gazes around at this grand old hotel with his polished marble floors and wide elegant staircase. Then he sighs. Bergman's been here for nearly an hour, and still, Wigan is nowhere to be found. Maybe he thinks this busy hotel was the wrong place to meet. There are people in every direction. Bergman wonders if Wigan saw the crowds and got spooked. He looks down, curses under his breath. Everything here was probably a bad choice. Right then, he hears someone approach. Bergman turns, sees a stocky man with gray hair, patchy and uncomed. He looks drained and nervous. Bergman stands and smiles. There's no doubt in his mind that this is Jeffrey Wigan. Jeffrey? That's me. Bergman reaches out to shake hands. Wigan ignores a handshake. Takes a seat. Bergman sits too. Well, thanks for seeing me today. He shouldn't thank me yet. Look, if you're looking for a source for some expose, you'll just have to keep looking. B&W is done with me, and I'm done with them. I don't need guys like you calling me late at night. You scared my wife. Yeah, I respect that, Jeffrey. Trust me. Actually, I don't trust you. But you came all this way, and I live about five minutes from here, so here I am. Bergman steadies his breath. He's met with plenty of sources who are deeply uncomfortable with journalists. But all it takes is a little time and a little conversation. I get that too. Look, I just wanted to know if you could clarify something for me. What happened at Brown and Williamson? I mean, what were the circumstances of your leaving? Wigan's mouth curls into a mask of rage. Oh, I didn't leave. I ran R&D there for over four years, then they fired me. They practically dragged me out of my lab. I've been out of work ever since. But why? Why they fired you? They didn't want a good scientist. They wanted a good soldier, a guy who never talks back. I just couldn't do it. I mean, I'm not perfect. But I have principles. Look, they're hiding things, and people are dying because of it. Bergman's eyes light up. But then Wigan leans back in his chair and folds his hands. But I really can't get into anything then. Why not? I signed a confidentiality agreement. And that's binding until when? Until I drop dead. And if they find out I violated it, I could lose everything. Tobacco companies go after people in ways you don't want to know about. So look, I've said too much already. And I should go. Wait, Jeffy, wait. OK? I get that you can't talk about Brown and Williamson. But what about this? Bergman reaches into his bag and hands Wigan a couple of documents. He watches as Wigan's eyes go wide. So you understand any of that? Of course I do. It shows they were developing a cigarette that would go out with a smoker, didn't take a drag from an entity. Fire safety. Gosh, this is amazing. Till it morons was way ahead of us. I wish I could take this home. Go ahead and take it home. Please. And listen, if you need a job, let me give you one. I'll pay you to read all those documents. All you have to do is tell me what they mean. Wigan furrows his brown. Well, there's nothing I can do about Brown and Williamson. But maybe I can do something. Looks like Philip Morris was close. I'm sure they could have put out a safer product on the shelves, but they didn't. So if I can help make them pay for that, I will. Wigan stands up. Now I really do have to go. He extends his hand and Bergman shakes it. And then Wigan disappears into the crowd. It's early evening, March 1994. Merrill Williams stands in an alleyway in Louisville, Kentucky. Rain pours down from dark, swollen clouds overhead. Williams is drenched, but he's careful to keep a folder of documents clutched tightly beneath his jacket. He knocks on a plain steel door attached to the back of a dress shop. After a few moments, the door opens. Williams's friend stands in the doorway and tells him to come in. The two walk into the shop's back office and Williams shakes his head to try off. The friend asks why he insisted on coming in the backway after closing time. Williams blanks his tired eyes. He explains that his name has been in the papers. He has to assume that Brown and Williams and operatives are following him at all times. He came in the back way to lose any tails. Williams then thanks his friend for allowing him to come here and use the facts machine. He can't afford to be spotted at the local copy shop. His friend gives him a look of concern, and says she's glad to help. She shows him to the facts machine in the corner. Williams carefully slides the folder out from his jacket, begins prepping the documents. They include local newspaper clippings about his theft of confidential memos and the ensuing lawsuit against him. The actual B&W documents are safe for now at his friend's place in Orlando, but Williams still feels a rising sense of desperation. He needs to get these clippings to liability attorney Don Barrett. Williams has read that Barrett is in Mississippi, working on some kind of anti tobacco case with the state's attorney general, and lawyer named Scruggs. Williams first came across Barrett's name in his collection of Brown and Williams and memos. Barrett had already sued Big Tobacco twice, and his lawyer seemed not to like him very much. That's an encouraging sign, Williams thinks, and hopes Barrett will take his stolen documents, share them with his colleagues, and in return offer him legal protection. He knows it's a long shot, but it might be his best chance to stay out of jail. William grabs a blank sheet of paper and writes, I've got something to talk to you about. He signs it, a cautious friend. Williams then puts the note on the top of his clippings, and inserts the stack into the document feeder. He dials the facts number for Barrett's office, takes deep breath, swallows hard, and then hits send. The end of the story. The end of the story. The end of the story. It's late afternoon, March 1994, and very soon after, Merrill Williams clicks send on his fax machine in Louisville. Today, Richard Scruggs is sitting in his broad oak desk in his office in Pascagula, Mississippi. Legal tombs are shelved on nearly every wall. A framed photo shows Scrugg smiling inside his mansion. Another shows him in the cabin of his private jet. Scruggs is a very successful attorney, and has spent his career winning high profile cases against big business. Scruggs looks down at his legal pad, and feels a shiver of anticipation. The note he's making today may very well help bring the tobacco industry to its knees. He jots down another important fact. There are 200,000 smokers in Mississippi currently on Medicaid. Millions and millions of government dollars are being spent annually to treat these smokers and their tobacco related illnesses. There is no reason why big tobacco shouldn't be made to reimburse the government for that money. Scruggs looks up from his notes. He's grateful that Mike Lewis brought this case to his attention. Lewis doesn't have the resources of the big trial experience to take a lead role in this fight, but Scruggs intends to make his friend proud and to be part of a team that's going to change the country. The phone rings, and Scruggs picks up. It's his colleague and occasional trial partner, Don Barrett. Scruggs and Barrett recently lost a case against big tobacco, and Scruggs knows that Barrett is eager, just like he is, to take another swing. On the phone, Barrett launches into it. He tells Scruggs to fuel up his plane and fly to Jackson. They have a meeting with Meryl Williams. Scruggs asks who Meryl Williams is, but after Barrett spends just a few minutes telling William's story, Scruggs is excited too. There's one thing his new case is missing, and that's the proof that big tobacco knew its products cause cancer. Williams might be the one who can finally deliver that evidence. Barrett says they need to hurry. Williams wants to meet tomorrow, and Barrett has the sense that the guy is getting more paranoid by the day. It wouldn't be surprising if he went into hiding. Scrugg says he can make that happen, but he also wonders if Williams can be trusted. He could always be a double agent. Someone that tobacco industry has sent out to gain information about the case. Barrett's had the same thought, but he thinks it's unlikely. Williams is just a too weird to be a double agent. Scruggs will soon see what he means. That's good enough for Scruggs. He hangs up and calls his secretary, asking her to ring the airfield where he keeps his jet. If Meryl Williams wants to meet tomorrow, Richard Scruggs will be on a plane tonight. The next day, Scruggs enters the old time delicatessen in Jacksonville, Mississippi. Don Barrett walks beside him. The cozy sandwich shop is filled with young couples and families. Scruggs immediately notices one man looks very out of place though. He sits in the furthest booth from the door, wearing a heavy black sweatshirt and sunglasses. The man looks up and waves. Scruggs looks at Barrett who shrugs, and the two lawyers make their way over to Meryl Williams. They approach the booth and Scruggs takes a long look at Williams. He seems hung over, his nose is red, and the smell of liquor is seeping from his pores. Williams gestures for the lawyers to sit. He's apparently been here for some time and pushes a half eat meal to the side. Glad you two could make it, I was starting to wonder. Scruggs makes a show of checking his watch. We're all here ahead of schedule, so, uh, guess we can get started. It's a pleasure to meet you, Meryl. I'll keep you voice down. I don't know who's watching, and there are ears everywhere. Scruggs looks at a nearby table where children are using crayons on their menus. Oh, okay. So, anyways, we've done a bit of research on you. I just want to say that I think you've done a very brave thing, and we're here to help. But first, we'd like to see what you have. I bet you would. Williams leans forward. Tell me something, Scruggs, are you a cop? Are you working for the FBI? Are you wearing a wire? Uh, no, I am not a cop, or some kind of agent. I'm a trial attorney. I'm taking to help you in your fight against Brown and Williamson. We are on the same team. You know, you have to tell me if you're a cop. It's illegal if you don't. We're not cops. Listen, Meryl, I'm losing my patience. I can see that the stress is getting to you, and I sympathize. But I'm not going to go around in circles. You have to trust us. We'll take the documents off your hands. We'll help you get back on your feet, and we'll protect you. And that's my promise. A promise, huh? Well, okay then. I have thousands of secret documents that could destroy Big Tobacco. By the looks of your suits, you're probably pretty wealthy. So how about you fly me to Florida? We pick up the documents, then we fly back. In the meantime, I want you to figure out a safe place to stash all the documents. Scruggs looks to bear it. And give each other a quick nod, and then Scruggs looks back at Williams. Not a problem. I have a bank vault. Of course you do. The documents will be safe. Good, then you can expect another call for me. Hope you have a nice day. Williams abruptly stands up, and without another word, exits the restaurant, and quickly disappears around the corner. Scruggs shakes his head, rubs his eyes, and turns to bear it. Oh, Laura, well, what do you think, Don? He's crazier than hell, but I believe him. Yeah, what's really crazy is that I believe him too. And he's right. If he has what he says he has, we might actually win. It's late afternoon on April 14, 1994. Jeffrey Wigan sits at his kitchen table in Louisville, Kentucky. He pours over the latest stack of Philip Morris documents that Lowell Bergman sent him. Wigan has a pen and highlighter, and he leaves numerous notes on each page. His vision is blurry. He's been up since 5 a.m. He can't seem to tear himself away from the confidential records. Turns out, Big Tobacco is more corrupt than he ever could have imagined. Wigan's wife Lucretia stands silent late the sink, preparing dinner. The scent of Wigan's was through the house. Wigan's older daughter sits across from him watching TV. She asks Wigan if she can change the channel. She's bored by what she's watching. Wigan smiles and tells his daughter that he can't switch channels just yet. What's on TV right now is very important. Because on the screen, Wigan sees his former boss, Tom Sanifer. Sanifer is in Washington, D.C. and takes a seat in front of a panel of congressmen. Quickly, Wigan forgets all about the documents in front of him. His entire energy is focused now on the TV. He watches as Sanifer identifies himself as the CEO of Brown and Williamson and is sworn in for questioning. This week, congressman Henry Waxman has called hearings in Washington to investigate the health risks of smoking. The heads of the major tobacco companies have been ordered to testify. Today, it's Sanifer's turn for a public grilling. Seeing Sanifer Wigan is once again filled with loathing. The CEO was a coward, a bully, openly scornful of scientific fact and unapologetically ignorant. Wigan can't believe he worked under such a man for as long as he did. The house Wigan sits in now was bought with the money that Sanifer's company paid him. But to Wigan, more and more, feels like blood money. Wigan leans in, hoping to finally hear his old boss admit the truth. But as he watches, Sanifer tells the congressman... Scientific advises working in Brown and Williamson today advise me that none of the research... I repeat, none of the research establishes that nicotine is addicted. I've learned nothing, nothing, that would change my view. I want to assure this subcommittee that we do not spike our products. Nor do we manipulate the nicotine in our cigarette to keep people hooked as FDA alleges. Wigan drops his pen. He was in meetings where Sanifer explicitly said he wanted to increase the nicotine in all B&W products. Sanifer himself had noted that it's nicotine that gets customers hooked and keeps him hooked. And now, Tom Sanifer has purged himself before Congress and the American public. Wigan looks down at the documents in front of him, then back at the TV. Until now, the idea of taking a public stand against Brown and Williamson was unthinkable. Wigan told himself that the risk was too great, but silence was the only way to protect himself and his family. Now, he clenches his jaws, closes his eyes. How can he remain silent after what he just saw today? Wigan knows the truth about Brown and Williamson. If he doesn't speak up, then he's just an accomplice and just as bad as they are. Two months ago, Jeffrey Wigan told Lowell Berglund, the 60 minutes producer, that he would not become a whistleblower. Wigan has changed his mind. Next, on American scandal, Mike Moore and Richard Scrubs take their legal battle past the point of no return. And Big Tobacco declares war on Jeffrey Wigan. From Wondry, this is episode two of Big Tobacco for American scandal. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about the fight against Big Tobacco, we recommend the books The People vs. Big Tobacco by Carrick Mollincan, Adam Levy, Joseph Men and Jeffrey Rothfetter, and Smokescreen, the truth behind the Tobacco Industry cover up by Philip J. Hills. American scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Mollsberg, produced by Gabe Riven, executive producers, Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her nonlopus for Wondry.