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Alabama's largest city, a center of industry, Birmingham, has a new mayor today. That's because a federal jury convicted Larry Langford on bribery and corruption charges yesterday, ousting him from office.
Tanya Ott reports from member station WBHM in Birmingham.
TANYA OTT: Larry Langford was raised in a housing project in segregated Birmingham but he went on to become one of the most powerful politicians in town. He's flamboyant. He made a pitch to have Birmingham host the 2020 Olympics. He has also held Bible sessions in city hall. But now, he is a convicted felon. A jury decided that while he was a Jefferson County commissioner, Langford accepted nearly a quarter million dollars in designer clothes, jewelry and cash from an investment banker and a lobbyist. In exchange Langford funneled millions of dollars in county bond deals to the banker. Glennon Threatt is Langford's defense attorney.
Mr. GLENNON THREATT (Defense Attorney for Larry Langford): Two hundred plus exhibits and seven days of testimony, and a jury that deliberates for two hours - and I'll let y'all do the math on how much time they spent going through all the documentation and evidence.
OTT: The defense argued the cash and clothes were gifts from long time friends. The banker and the lobbyist pleaded guilty and testified against him. After the verdict, Langford vowed to appeal.
Mr. LARRY LANGFORD (Former Governor, Alabama): I'm not the first person who has ever gone on trial for something that they didn't do. It happens. But if you expect to see me crying and head drop, you picked a wrong one, I'm not yet.
OTT: Langford claims a Republican appointed U.S. attorney targeted him because he is a Democrat. And that there was no hope of a black man getting a fair jury trial in Alabama.
Mr. JIM PHILLIPS (Attorney At Law): It's sort of like the last refuge of a scoundrel to claim politics or race following a conviction in a fair trial.
OTT: Jim Phillips is acting U.S. attorney for this case. His office has prosecuted several former county commissioners, white and black, Republican and Democratic.
Mr. PHILLIPS: I don't believe that Alabama or Jefferson County is any worse than other counties or other states. Part of the reason that you've seen these cases is the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, law enforcement has aggressively conducted their investigations. and anytime you have that, you're naturally going to have more folks brought to trial.
OTT: Phillips says this should be a warning to other elected officials who might be on the take. Larry Langford faces decades of prison time.
For NPR News, I'm Tanya Ott in Birmingham, Alabama.
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