Larry Langford sentenced to 15 years in prison

Published: Mar. 5, 2010 at 4:21 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2010 at 4:56 PM CST
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TUSCALOOSA, AL (WBRC) - Former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was sentenced to 15 years in prison Friday for his role in a bribery scheme during his tenure as president of the Jefferson County Commission.

U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler issued the sentence Friday morning in a federal courtroom in Tuscaloosa, telling Langford, "This isn't pleasant for me or you."

Langford declined to make a statement before the sentencing, but did tell the judge, "I'm sorry this has occurred."

The judge sentenced Langford to 180 months in prison, plus three years supervised release afterwards.  Langford must also pay restitution and back taxes.

Prosecutors then asked the judge to send Langford to prison immediately instead of giving him 30 days to report to prison because, "Langford showed no remorse." Judge Coogler decided against that recommendation and gave Langford 30 days to report to prison (April 5th.)  However, in the interim, Langford will be required to wear an electronic monitoring anklet, must report to his probation officer twice a week, and cannot go outside of Jefferson County.

Federal prosecutors had asked Judge Coogler to sentence Langford to between 24 and 30 years in prison. Langford's attorney, Michael Rasmussen, objected Friday morning, restating the opinions he filed Thursday and asking the judge for mercy.

"Let Langford come out before he's 70 and overcome by health problems," Rasmussen said. "Don't let him rot in prison."

Langford's attorney asked for a sentence similar to the one given last week to former Montgomery investment banker Bill Blount, a co-conspirator in the bribery scheme.

"Balanced against who he is and what he has done all his life are what he did during part of during part of his life, the offenses of conviction," Rasmussen wrote in his recommendation to the judge. "Serious as they are, they are but a small part of the whole. They should not swallow up the whole, and they should not swallow up the remainder of his life as the government wants."

Government prosecutors had subpoenaed Blount to testify at Friday's sentencing about how much money he made, but prosecutors say Blount was sent home after Langford's defense attorneys removed their objection.

Several people did testify Friday on Langford's behalf. Rev. Osie Oden, Langford's pastor, asked the judge to consider all of the good things Langford did as mayor of Fairfield. Oden said Langford never refused a request for help from anyone.  

Bishop David Foley of the Birmingham diocese also testified Friday, saying Langford saved Family High School from having to close its doors.

Langford's other attorney, Glennon Threatt, also spoke on Langford's behalf and made a reference to the number of reporters feeding live updates on the trial through Twitter on their mobile devices in the courtroom. Threatt told Judge Coogler to ignore that "distraction" during the trial.

Prosecutors did not call any witnesses, but prosecutor George Martin did make a statement, telling the judge, "Langford asked voters to judge him by his actions, now you (judge) should, too."  Martin also said Langford condemned justice system and shifted the blame for his conviction instead of showing remorse.  

Martin said the sentence should be a warning to other public officials.

Langford was convicted last October on 60 felony charges of bribery and conspiracy that took place while he was president of the Jefferson County Commission. Prosecutors said Langford sent more than $7 million in county bond business to Bill Blount's investment banking firm.  Langford, in turn, received $235,000 in cash, jewelry and clothing from Blount via Alabama Democratic lobbyist Al LaPierre. Prosecutors said most of the financial business Langford funneled to Blount involved bond and swap transactions related to Jefferson County's multi-billion dollar sewer debt.

LaPierre and Blount plead guilty last July to charges connected to the bribery scheme with Langford and testified for the prosecution during Langford's trial. They were each sentenced to prison last Friday: Blount was sentenced to four years and four months and LaPierre was sentenced to four years.

Thursday, ministers of various denominations signed a resolutions praising Langford's accomplishments. The resolution was given to Langford's attorney to present to Judge Coogler during sentencing Friday morning. The group outside of Birmingham City Hall asked for prayer for Langford, his family, and hoped the judge would not give a harsh sentence.

"A man of great faith and tremendous compassion who not doubt is facing the darkest hour of his life," Rev. Franklin Tate said.

"Pray to the God of justice will take care of this, that's the main reason being here," Rev. Edgar Fisher said.

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