Jury finds Larry Langford guilty in federal corruption trial

TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham mayor Larry Langford was convicted Wednesday afternoon on federal corruption charges, immediately removing him from office.

The jury returned its verdict less than three hours after beginning deliberations, finding Langford guilty on all 60 counts against him, ranging from bribery to money laundering during his tenure as president of the Jefferson County Commission.

The judge said Langford would be sentenced within 90 to 100 days, meaning Langford would be allowed to stay out of prison until after sentencing.

FOX6 News reporter Ashley Nix was in the courtroom as the verdict was read. Nix said Langford sat quietly in disbelief as the jury returned the verdict. Langford had said Tuesday afternoon he was confident in his chances of winning the case.

The conviction means Langford is immediately removed from office as mayor of Birmingham, replaced by Birmingham City Council President Carole Smitherman, and could spend many years in prison.

Both the prosecution and the defense made their case to the jury during closing arguments Wednesday morning. The prosecution went over their evidence saying they proved Langford took bribes of about $236,000 in exchange for sending county business to the Montgomery firm of investment banker Bill Blount. The defense told the jury Blount and Democrat lobbyist Al LaPierre took advantge of Langford and that the mayor did not consider any of the gifts to be bribes.

Langford's conviction as mayor of Birmingham means Langford is immedately removed from office and Smitherman takes his place immediately. The Mayor Council Act then requires the Council to call a special election within five days of Langford's vacancy from the office. The election must be held within 90 days of that period.

It is possible that a legal question may arise over who will be interim mayor after Smitherman initially takes it. The law states: "While the president of the council is serving as acting mayor, he shall not sit with the council or vote on any matters before the council."

With a new council taking office during this time period, it is not clear what would happen in the Council President election. Some believe Smitherman would not be eligible because she would be interim mayor. Some say the new Council President would then replace Smitherman as Interim Mayor.

This is expected to be a legal issue if the mayor does get a guilty verdict from the jury.

Here is what the law states:

Article IV Sec. 4.05 Vacancy in office of mayor.
Whenever any vacancy in the mayor shall occur by reason of death, resignation, removal or any other cause, the president of the council shall assume the duties of the office of mayor effective on the date such vacancy occurs and shall serve as acting mayor until a new mayor is elected and qualified as hereinafter provided. The acting mayor shall receive no compensation, expenses or allowances as a councilman while acting as mayor, but he will receive the same rate of pay and allowances provided for the mayor whose vacated office he fills, and the compensation received for days of service as acting mayor shall not be counted in determining the maximum annual per diem compensation permitted council members. While the president of the council is serving as acting mayor he shall not sit with the council or vote on any matters before the council. The election commission of the city, if there be one, and if not then the council thereof, shall within five (5) days of the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of the mayor call a special election to fill such vacancy, such election to be held on a Tuesday not less than 30 days and not more than 45 days from the occurrence of such vacancy; provided, however, if a regular or special election is scheduled or required to be held within 90 days after the occurrence of such vacancy but more than 30 days after such occurrence, then the vacancy in the office of mayor will be filled at such regular or special election. Notice of such election shall be given at the expense of the city by one publication at least 18 days in advance of the same in one (1) or more newspapers published in such city. The method, procedure and requirements of qualifying, voting upon and determining the successful candidate shall be the same as is provided herein relative to the election of the
mayor at regular elections, except that statements of candidacy must be filed at least 20 days before the date set for such election. The successor to the mayor chosen at any such election shall qualify for office as soon as practical thereafter, and shall be clothed with and assume the duties, responsibilities and powers of such office immediately upon such
qualification, and shall hold office for the unexpired term of his predecessor and until his successor is elected and qualified. (Act No. 452, as amended by Act No. 133, 1965)