Originally created 02/02/05

Recruiting scandal case goes to the jury



MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A wealthy businessman charged with bribing a high school coach to get a top football recruit for Alabama put his hopes Tuesday on his chief accuser's history of lying and the legal standard for "reasonable doubt."

Prosecutors, meanwhile, said in closing arguments for Logan Young's bribery trial that bank and phone records back up the testimony of their chief witness, former Trezevant High School head coach Lynn Lang.

Lang says Young paid him $150,000 in a series of cash payments below the $10,000 threshold for IRS reporting to get Means to sign with Alabama in 2000.

Young is charged with bribery, conspiracy and money laundering.

The U.S. District Court jury is expected to begin its deliberations Wednesday.

Defense lawyer James Neal told the jury that Lang's long history of lying about Means' recruitment to the NCAA, Memphis school officials and others makes his testimony unreliable.

He also noted Means' testimony that Lang got a stand-in for him to take the college entrance exam and told him to lie about it to a federal grand jury.

Lang has pleaded guilty to taking a bribe to send Means to Alabama and is awaiting sentencing for racketeering conspiracy.

"Can you believe a man like this?" Neal asked the jury.

To convict Young, Neal said repeatedly, the jury must find him guilty beyond a "reasonable doubt," which he described as the level of care jurors would use "for the most important decisions in your life."

Referring to Lang, Neal asked, "Is this a man I would not hesitate to rely on for the most important decisions of my life?"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin acknowledged that Lang lied in the past but said his accusations against Young are supported by phone and bank records.

Those records show numerous calls were made between phones belonging to Lang and Young, and that Young made more than 60 cash withdrawals from his bank during the time of the alleged conspiracy.

The withdrawals all were for less than $10,000 each and for many of them, their timing closely corresponded to bank deposits made by Lang, Godwin said.

Godwin described the withdrawals and deposits as "the stars aligning in strange ways."

The last witness for the trial, which began Jan. 24, was a former assistant coach at Michigan State who said Lang tried to broker Means for $200,000.

Brad Lawing said Lang wanted an upfront payment of $50,000.

He quoted Lang as saying he already had been paid $50,000 for Means and had to repay that money before a deal with Michigan State could go forward.

Lawing said when he asked who had given the money, Lang replied, "I can't tell you, but if you don't get in the game you'll find out on national signing day."

Means signed with the Crimson Tide.

Neal asked Lawing, now an assistant coach at North Carolina, if Lang mentioned Young's name. Lawing said he did not.

In his trial testimony, Lang said eight schools offered inducements while recruiting Means and three - Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky - handed out money. He said former Georgia coach Jim Donnan gave him $700 cash, while Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Michigan State also made offers.

The defense put Donnan and former Memphis coach Rip Scherer on the stand and both denied Lang's testimony.

Means, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, transferred to Memphis after reports of payoffs to Lang became public. He expects to graduate this spring.

Alabama's recruitment of Means became part of an NCAA investigation that led to sanctions in 2002 depriving the Crimson Tide of scholarships and bowl eligibility.