Testimony begins in Langford corruption trial

(WBRC video)
(WBRC video)

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Prosecutors began calling witnesses Tuesday afternoon as they laid out their case against Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford.

The first witness to testify was Yvette Campbell, manager of the Roebuck branch of Colonial Bank. Campbell testified about special circumstances and treatment given to Langford in regards to a loan application from Karen Cope-Hughes, then head of the credit department for Colonial.  Campbell said Cope-Hughes' interaction was "unusual and has never been repeated."

Cope-Hughes then took the stand and said she got involved because Blount called her and told her Langford needed to consolidate debt. Cope-Hughes added she wouldn't have gotten involved because Langford's credit score was low, but said, "Blount and Langford's position made her feel comfortable."

The next witness was Richard Pizitz Jr., the COO of Gus Mayer Management Company, which sued Langford and settled for $44,000 plus return 65 shirts.  Pizitz testified that Langford has purchased several suits in last two months and paid with cash.

The next witness was Remon Danforah, owner of Remon's clothier. Danforah testified the first time Langford came in was with LaPierre and Blount and both told him to sell Langford whatever and they would take care of it.

Prosecutors also called Jefferson County Commission minutes clerk Diane Townes to the stand. Townes testified about reportring votes on Jefferson County ordinances related to bond deals during Langford's tenure.

Tuesday afternoon's testimony followed opening arguments Tuesday morning by the prosecution and defense. The lead prosecutor in the Larry Langford corruption trial told jurors the case was about a "wrong done by a powerful, popular politician," while the attorney representing Langford said Birmingham's mayor was "manipulated and entrapped."

Federal prosecutor George Martin went first, telling jurors, "This is a case about a wheeling and dealing politician."  Martin used different size boxes to explain that even the smallest lie or deceit is wrong.

Martin told jurors Tuesday morning it would take multiple witnesses and lots of paper to lay out money trail between the three men.  He concluded his opening statement by saying, "this is no joke or political cartoon....it's wrong done by powerful, popular politician."

Langford defense attorney Mike Rasmussen then opened his case to the jurors, standing behind Langford and telling them, "This is Larry.  He's not guilty."

Rasmussen then told jurors Blount was the schemer who manipulated and entrapped Langford and said LaPierre hid Blount's involvement from Langford. Rasmussen said Langford has 2 faults: overspending and trusting others to finish what he starts.

Rasmussen then went on to explain more details about their so-called "gifts theory," a key to Langford's defense strategy.  Rasmussen said money Blount gave to Langford was gifts, not bribes, and said Langford put Blount in deals because of politics and this was the practice in that time.

Rasmussen concluded his opening statement by saying the case is, "a stab in the back and a deal with the devil."

Langford is accused of accepting more than $260,000 in bribes to steer Jefferson County business to Montgomery businessman Bill Blount. Prosecutors say the money was funneled through Al LaPierre. Earlier this year, both Blount and LaPierre plead guilty to charges in connection with the case.