BRADENTON, Fla. - The federal judge presiding over the criminal case against Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Larry Langford and two of his friends in the bond business has scheduled a conference call for Wednesday to discuss the status of the case.
While it is not clear from court documents what will be discussed in the call, Langford, his long-time friend and lobbyist Albert LaPierre, and Montgomery bond dealer William Blount have filed motions to have some of the counts against them dismissed because they claim some are duplicative.
The trio was charged Dec. 1 in a 101-count indictment. At the time, prosecutors called the case against them a "classic pay-to-play" scenario in connection with a long-running bribery scheme related to bond and other financial transactions in Jefferson County, when Langford was a county commissioner.
The 101-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns over a number of years in which Jefferson County refinanced its sewer-related debt, which now threatens to push the county into the largest-ever municipal bankruptcy.
Langford "sold out his public office to his friends Blount and LaPierre for about $235,000 in expensive clothes, Rolex watches, and cash to pay his growing personal debt," U.S. attorney Alice Martin alleged when the indictment was unsealed. "All the while, Blount was paid fees topping $7 million."
The three men claim that the indictment violates their constitutional rights because it contains multiple charges stemming from a single act that expose them to the possibility of double punishment.
The three men are scheduled to stand trial May 4 in U.S. District Court in Alabama.
Meanwhile, a hearing scheduled today in the Securities and Exchange Commission's civil case bringing securities-related fraud charges against Langford, LaPierre, and Blount has been continued.
Because the criminal case is pending, the three men asked the federal court to stay the SEC case.
The commission filed the charges as part of its first enforcement action involving security-based swap agreements, in this case swaps Jefferson County entered into based on municipal bond indexes. Attorneys for the three men filed motions to dismiss the case on the grounds that the SEC has no jurisdiction over security-based swap agreements, but those motions are still pending.
Although the SEC did not object to a stay in its civil case, the agency in court documents said it would "not be able to effectively and promptly prosecute violations of the federal securities laws and seek the appropriate remedies."
The SEC, though, said there are factors that support a stay, including the fact that many of the witnesses in both actions would be the same and that the factual and legal issues appeared to be similar in both cases.
"Because of this overlap, simultaneous litigation of the criminal and civil cases raises the possibility of duplicative discovery, pretrial motions, and hearings," the SEC said. "Under the circumstances of this case, this would not be an effective use of the resources and time of both the District Court and government agencies. Accordingly, the commission does not object to a stay."
The judge in the SEC civil case last week granted a stay of proceedings pending resolution of the criminal case against Langford, Blount, and LaPierre.