Thursday, October 22, 2009

Update on the Langford Trial

Well, I was alert of what was going on although I've been under the weather with a sinus infection, but anyways.Yesterday, was a busy day for the prosecution with key witness and former co-defendant taking the stand. 

Wednesday morning was spent on former Jefferson County Finance Director and current Birmingham Finance Director, Steve Sayler, continuing his testimony on the stand about allegations created by federal prosecution that Langford "paid for play".  He says Blount's firm was added to bond work at the request of then Commission President Larry Langford. Sayler testifies Langford and the commission traveled to New York prior to those deals.  The prosecution guided jurors through complicated, often tedious, county bond swaps. The direct line of questioning came with repeated objections from the defense that were often sustained. Sayler has talked about many of those bond deals with banks that employed Blount's firm as a consultant were cut into deals without public knowledge.  During cross-examination, Langford defense attorney, Mike Rasmussen, questioned Sayler on sewer bond rates and what would have happened if Langford had not done anything. Sayler also told the court that fees on the bond deals did not come out of county funds. 

Also Terri Hatcher, Langford's longtime assistant from the days of him being mayor of Fairfield (a suburb of Birmingham) testified before the jury in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday.  She talked about how she had set up at least 4 trips annually to New York for Langford to travel with Blount and LaPierre to take care of business associated with the bond swaps with J.P. Morgan Chase.  Hatcher did discuss on the stand the one travel advance for a three-day New York trip included $900 for lodging, $700 for travel and $160 a day for expenses.  However, she didn't really deliver anything profound other than the number of trips he made while he was commissioner. 

Other witnesses that testified included James Lister, a financial analyst of Lehman Brothers, who testified about his conversations with Blount about Jefferson County's finances. Lister said he talked to Blount because, "he believed Blount had a relationship with Jefferson County." Lister said Blount told him Langford "controlled three votes on the county commission" and suggested Lister should visit Birmingham to see the Jefferson County folks.  Also Robert Taylor of Lehman Brothers testified saying he engineered the interest rate swaps with Jefferson County. Taylor said he came to Birmingham to meet with Langford, but said Langford became frustrated with him because he wouldn't do business with a middle man because of disclosure.  Taylor said he met with Sayler a week later and in October of that year they did a deal, which included $35,000 in payments to Blount.  Paolo Farina from Salvatore Ferragamo clothiers of New York City confirmed receipts for purchases for Langford and former Jefferson County Commissioner Mary Buckelew, including a $2,000 leather jacket and two pair of shoes for Langford. Farina said the purchases were sent to the commissioners at their Jefferson County courthouse office and were paid for by Blount.  The jury was also read the contents of a letter from J.P. Morgan Chase requested by Langford himself to pay Blount's investment firm $2.6 million.

The most pivotal portion of Wednesday was the testimony on the stand of William Blount, the Montgomery investment banker and former co-defendant.  Blount recounts selling bonds and buying a variety of things for Langford.  Blount tesified that they have known one another for 30 years and handled the majority of the bond deal in every public office Langford has held since the day of him being mayor of Fairfield.  He also told the jury about the letters that Langford recieved about the bond swaps that was bypassed fellow commissioners, finance director, and the public.

More to come as the reports of testimony Thursday come...

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