BRADENTON, Fla. — Former Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Larry Langford has filed a motion for new trial on pay-to-play charges and requested that the judge set aside his conviction because, among other reasons, the jury didn’t deliberate long enough.
Langford was found guilty last week on 60 federal charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and filing false tax returns, much of which took place when he was president of the Jefferson County Commission when $3.2 billion of sewer debt was refinanced in 2002 and 2003.
After his stint on the commission, Langford was elected mayor of Birmingham but he was immediately stripped of the title upon his conviction for charges that included taking $236,000 in gifts and money from Montgomery bond dealer Bill Blount and their mutual friend, lobbyist Al LaPierre.
While prosecutors said Langford accepted bribes to steer bond business to Blount, Langford has steadfastly denied that.
In a motion filed Wednesday, Langford’s attorney said his client got an unfair trial because, among other reasons, he wasn’t allowed to enter evidence showing that Langford was a generous gift-giver.
“The speed with which the jury returned its verdict indicated almost no deliberation, especially given the fact that they took a smoke break before returning the verdict,” attorney Michael Rasmussen wrote in his brief. “Although this may indicate the strength of the case on one side, which the government will certainly argue, it may also indicate flaws in the choice of venue, the jury selection process, the admission of evidence, and the charges.”
Langford’s trial began Oct. 19 and ended eight days later after the jury deliberated less than two hours.
Former Jefferson County Commissioner Mary Buckelew pleaded guilty last year after admitting that she lied to a federal grand jury about receiving gifts from Blount in return for favorable votes on county bond deals. Buckelew will be sentenced next Thursday.
On Wednesday, sitting county Commissioner Shelia Smoot was mentioned in a lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission against two JPMorgan executives accused of pay-to-play dealings in Jefferson County to drum up bond business for the giant investment bank.
One JPMorgan executive said Smoot “demanded” that two local firms — Mobile-based Gardnyr Michael Capital Inc. and ABI Capital Management LLC — get paid more on some county bond deals, according to the SEC suit. Smoot has denied she did any such thing.
Byron Perkins, one of Smoot’s lawyers at the Cochran Firm in Birmingham, said Smoot is not a defendant in the suit and no charges have been filed against her. Smoot, who is a Democrat, is running for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Artur Davis.
“Gardnyr Michael Capital takes its obligations under the law and to its clients very seriously and stands behind the work that it did in those transactions,” said the firm’s lawyer, Brian Cash at the Perkins Group LLC in Birmingham, when asked for a comment about the firm being mentioned in the SEC suit.
ABI Capital could not be reached for comment. Records from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said ABI’s brokerage registration was terminated or withdrawn on Oct. 31, 2008. SEC record showed that ABI’s investment adviser registration was terminated Dec. 1, 2008.