Indeed, Langford knows his manners — how to say "please" and "excuse me."
And according to Al LaPierre, he knows how to say "Thank you."
The lobbyist who acted as a sophisticated bag man for investment banker Bill Blount told jurors today that he channeled tens of thousands of dollars to Langford. He paid off a $50,000 loan for Langford. He gave Langford $69,000 to cover debts. He gave Langford $30,000 to pay his taxes. He gave Langford money to gamble in casinos with (now convicted felon) John Katopodis.
"And what did Mr. Langford say?" Assistant United States Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson asked.
"He said, 'Thank you,'" LaPierre said.
Prosecutors have charged Langford with accepting more than $235,000 worth of cash, jewelry and clothes from Blount and LaPierre in exchange for directing more than $7 million of business to Blount's investment bank, Blount-Parrish & Co.
"Bill Blount got business. Bill Blount made money and I made money," LaPierre said when asked why he acted as a conduit for the funds.
LaPierre said that Blount could not write Langford checks directly because Securities and Exchange Commission rules prohibited it. Instead, Langford would let LaPierre know when he needed money and LaPierre would contact Blount.
Blount paid LaPierre to keep tabs on the Jefferson County Commission, particularly the lucrative bond deals that were supporting a massive sewer rehabilitation project. Whenever word spread that a bond deal was under consideration, the airplanes from New York would book full with investment bankers looking to make a deal, LaPierre joked.
Part of that job was keeping Langford happy and politically safe.
When the SEC began investigating the payments to Langford, the three men — Langford, Blount and LaPierre — concocted fake promissory notes to disguise the bribes as loans, LaPierre said. The men met in Langford's downtown loft to sign the notes. Langford did not seem surprised to see Blount there, even though Blount had so far kept his distance from Langford in these transactions.
Even though the notes claimed the payments were loans, they were not, LaPierre said. When Langford took money from him, there was no expectation of him to pay it back, he said.
LaPierre also made frequent payments for Langford at Remon's, an upscale men's clothing store in downtown Birmingham. Together, LaPierre and Blount paid for more than $50,000 worth of clothes from Remon's.
At one point, the owner, Remon Danforah, threatened to sue if Langford's bill wasn't paid. LaPierre said he and Blount paid the bill and LaPierre asked Langford to quit going to the store.
Paying the bill prevented the political embarrassment of a lawsuit and protected Blount and LaPierre's stake in Langford's political career, LaPierre said.
In 2008, Mayor Langford's chief of operations, Chris Hartsell, delivered LaPierre a check for $5,250 toward the so-called loans, but there were never any more payments, LaPierre said. That was after both the SEC and Justice Department investigation were publicly known.
Friday morning, the court finished hearing testimony from the investment banker, Blount.
Blount told the court that his plea negotiations with prosecutors began after LaPierre pleaded guilty this summer. Without that deal, Blount could have faced a virtual life sentence and $7.6 million in forfeitures. Instead, he could receive 52 months in prison and a $1 million forfeiture if prosecutors are satisfied with his testimony.
Blount said his plea deal required only that he testify truthfully. Defense lawyer Michael Rasmussen asked Blount who decides if he fulfills that obligation and how.
"I guess it's like Mark Twain said," replied Blount. "It's easier to tell the truth than to remember what you said the first time."
During redirect examination, Assistant United States George Martin asked Blount how the bond deals he worked on had worked out for the county. Blount insisted that Jefferson County's financial problems were a result of its bond insurers being downgraded, not the fault of the interest rate swaps.
Testimony resumes after lunch.