BRADENTON, Fla. — Federal Judge Scott Coogler yesterday granted a motion by Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford to have his pay-to-play trial moved to Tuscaloosa, saying that the "ends of justice" required a change of venue.
Coogler also delayed the trial until Oct. 19, saying that it would take a month to summon a jury pool and that was the first court date available at the new venue. The trial involving charges related to Langford's tenure as president of the county commission in Jefferson County, Ala., had been scheduled for Aug. 31.
Langford sought a change of venue because of extensive, negative pre-trial publicity. He filed for the change on Wednesday, a day after Montgomery bond dealer William Blount pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy.
Blount became the second person in the case to enter a plea agreement, leaving Langford to stand trial alone. Their mutual friend, lobbyist Albert LaPierre, pleaded guilty in July to one count each of conspiracy and filing a false tax return. The plea agreements signed by Blount and LaPierre require them to testify in Langford's trial.
Langford was named in a 101-count indictment, along with Blount and LaPierre, about a year ago. He is charged with taking bribes while he was a Jefferson County commissioner and steering bond business to Blount's firm when the county's massive sewer debt was refinanced.
The debt has caused a financial crisis for the county and soaring rates for sewer system users, who could have been selected for Langford's jury.
Prosecutors in the case did not object to the change of venue. Tuscaloosa is about 60 miles southwest of Birmingham where the case would have been held.