Monday, December 20, 2010

Federal Prosecutors Are Breaking Out the Strong-Arm Tactics Again in Alabama

Larry Langford

Alabamians who keep up with the news have become deeply familiar with the tactics of federal prosecutors in recent years. Here's how the game works: The feds offer to drop charges or reduce sentences for certain individuals in exchange for testimony against other individuals.

This tactic was a favorite for the government in the Don Siegelman case. In fact, evidence strongly suggests that two individuals--Richard Scrushy and Gary White--currently reside in U.S. prisons mainly because they refused to provide the testimony the government wanted against Siegelman. Both Scrushy and White have stated that the feds' message essentially was, "If you don't lie in the way we want you to lie, we will make you pay."

Classy strategy, isn't it? Looks like it's being used again in the case involving alleged corruption connected to gambling bills in the Alabama Legislature. The tactic seems to be working with one individual, not so much with another.

Lobbyist Jerrod D. Massey has agreed to plead guilty to several conspiracy counts, according to a report today from TPM Muckracker. In exchange for the guilty plea, the government will dismiss various fraud charges against Massey.

The TPM Muckraker article does not spell this out, but our guess is that Massey will be expected to testify against some of the "bigger fish" among the 11 indicted in the case. Given that Massey served as a lobbyist for Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley, we probably can expect to see Massey turn on Gilley.

Interestingly, Gilley's lawyer is G. Douglas Jones, of the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter. As we have reported in previous posts, Jones is a strong ally of Homewood lawyer Rob Riley in federal litigation involving individuals and entities connected to HealthSouth. Riley, of course, is the son of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, whose raids on gambling facilities served as a precursor to the federal charges.

At last report, Jones and Rob Riley had helped plaintiffs' lawyers rake in some $28 million in attorney fees on the HealthSouth case. According to court documents, that will be spread among 50 to 100 lawyers, with much of it going to national firms based in New York and San Diego, respectively. Still, Jones, Riley, and their firms stand to make a nice chunk of change--and that $28 million figure does not include all of the attorney fees from the case. That's only a portion of them.

Given the windfall Doug Jones has reaped from his association with Bob Riley's son, you'd think he might have a conflict of interest in representing Ronnie Gilley. In fact, we've called Jones the Alabama "King of Conflicts," but no one in the legal community ever seems to call him on it.

Now that Jarrod Massey has decided to take the feds' bait, it will be interesting to see how Gilley fares in the federal prosecution. Our guess is that he won't fare very well.

Another individual refused to take the feds' bait. Former Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, now a federal inmate after his conviction on corruption charges, revealed recently that he had received curious communications from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the form of a phone call and a letter, the feds told Langford that he could receive a reduced sentence if he testified against gambling magnate Milton McGregor, the No. 1 target in an investigation that has led to indictments for 11 legislators, lobbyists, and gaming figures.

All of which raises this question: If the feds are trying to rely on Larry Langford's testimony, how strong is their case against McGregor and others? Alabamians have been inundated with stories about wires and phone taps being used in the investigation. But what kind of evidence did the high-tech gadgetry produce?

A lawyer source tells Legal Schnauzer that the feds probably are trying to come up with evidence of actions that McGregor might have taken, beyond words that are present on a recording. If so, that makes the Alabama probe sound like the investigation of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. In that case, Blago was convicted on only one of 24 counts and seemed to be guilty mostly of running his mouth a lot.

The focus of the Alabama case supposedly is on actions related to possible bills in the state legislature. How would Langford, as former mayor of Birmingham, have anything to do with that?

If the feds are looking for help from Langford, they might have to keep looking. The former mayor was less than thrilled with the season's greetings he received from the FBI:

It was, Langford said, pressure by the feds to convince him to roll on McGregor, who has been charged in Montgomery with bribery and fraud.

"The U.S. Attorney's office sent me a letter," Langford said. "If I testify against these folks, they would reduce my sentence."

He says he won't do it. He says he can't do it.

"A lie put me in here," Langford said. "Now I'm being asked to tell a lie on Milton McGregor and God knows who else, to reduce the sentence I should never have been sentenced to to begin with."


Anonymous said...

Doug Jones....what a piece of work! Former U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, former counsel for Don Siegelman, personally met with Holder shortly after Holder's appointment and chief consultant to CBS 60 Minutes on the Nick Bailey story (when Bailey described his ordeal with federal prosecutors).
Yes, Doug Jones will reap the benefit of years of manipulation and walk away with a lot of money and a trail of victims in his wake. Just my humble opinion, but Gilley should look into a new attorney before Jones throws him under the bus.

Anonymous said...

Okay, how is this supposed to play? The DOJ idiots criminalized Mayor Langford, called him dishonest in lots of ways, and NOW they want his testimony?!?!? They want jurors to believe him and rely on the truthfulness of his testimony? They want him to lie? Or they want the honest testimony of someone they have characterized as dishonest? Nothing new here, even with a "new" U.S. Attorney, just the same old tricks.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon No. 2:

You raise a great point. If Larry Langford is a fraudster, and been convicted as such, why should we believe a word he says about Milton McGregor. And if Jarrod Massey has admitted to engaging in conspiracy to commit fraud, why should be believe anything he is likely to say about Ronnie Gilley.

I'm all for prosecutors going after genuine bad guys. But when they resort to this kind of snitch testimony, it makes me thing they have a weak, or nonexistent, case.

Seems like another example of the abusive prosecutorial tactics that USA Today has been spotlighting in recent months.