Al LaPierre pleads guilty

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham lobbyist Al LaPierre pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

LaPierre faces 8 years in jail after confessing he funneled money from Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount to Birmingham Mayor (and then-county commissioner) Larry Langford in exchange for Langford steering county business to Blount.

Al LaPierre told a judge he was pleading guilty because he was in fact guilty of these charges.

After 20 minutes of questioning, Judge Scott Coogler accepted LaPierre's plea.

"Very remorseful. As I said earlier, mixed emotions, somewhat relieved to have made a decision and put this matter behind him," LaPierre's attorney Tommy Spina said. "But at the same time saddened by the effect his decision to plead guilty has had, particularly on his family members. And I know he's let himself down."

Langford told FOX6 News Wednesday LaPierre's testimony will help, not hurt his case. Langford has said before that any money he got was a loan, not a bribe, though LaPierre's plea says the lobbyist will testify the exchanges were meant to influence Langford.

The Dean of Samford's Cumberland Law School said it will be up to a jury to decide who they believe.

"The facts as outlined in that case, the plea agreement -- the fact there was a coverup before the SEC, and they'll have other evidence of intent, other crimes evidence," Judge John Carroll said. "For example, we know Mary Buckelew is expected to testify in that case, there may be others that testify in that case. The government's case is not solely built on LaPierre's testimony but he certainly is an important part of it."

"I think Al came across exactly as he really is," Spina said. "He's contrite, he's remorseful, he made a mistake. My experience in cases is that jurors are able to see past that in making a determination about whether a witness is truthful or not."

Al LaPierre faces a maximum of 8 years in prison, but that could be knocked down to 4 years if prosecutors believe he substantially helps their case with his testimony. He remains free on bond until sentencing. The trial of Larry Langford and Bill Blount is scheduled to begin August 31st.