Originally created 02/03/05

Businessman convicted in football recruiting trial



MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A federal jury convicted millionaire businessman Logan Young on Wednesday of paying $150,000 to get a top football recruit to sign with Alabama five years ago.

The jury deliberated 5½ hours before returning the verdict.

Young, 64, of Memphis was convicted of racketeering conspiracy (by breaking state bribery laws), crossing state lines to commit a crime and arranging bank withdrawals to avoid reporting rules.

Young could receive prison time and a large fine. No date was scheduled for sentencing.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, but federal guidelines would call for a much lighter sentence.

Young was convicted of paying former Trezevant High School head coach Lynn Lang to make sure Albert Means, a highly recruited defensive lineman from Memphis, signed with the Crimson Tide.

While the jury convicted Young on three criminal charges it remained undecided on a "forfeiture count," common in racketeering convictions, that would require Young to pay the government the amount of money involved in the conspiracy.

The jury was to return Thursday to make that decision. In the meantime, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Breen left a gag order in place, barring comments to the media by the defense or prosecution.

Breen rejected government requests to set a "substantial" cash bond for Young and ban him from alcohol use while awaiting sentencing.

Trial testimony painted Young as a heavy drinker. Young has been free without bond since his indictment in October 2003.

A scandal surrounding Means' recruitment played into an NCAA investigation that resulted in sanctions against Alabama in 2002, costing the Crimson Tide scholarships and bowl eligibility.

Two former Alabama assistants, Ivy Williams and Ronnie Cottrell, lost their jobs and are suing the NCAA, claiming defamation. They contend that a conspiracy by enemies of Alabama's football program set off the NCAA's investigation and Young's prosecution.

Thomas Gallion, the attorney for Williams and Cottrell, said Young's conviction would not affect their lawsuit.

"Fortunately, they didn't tie my clients to Logan Young or any improper acts," Gallion said from his office in Alabama. "I will say I was stunned at the verdict. Football's a powerful thing. You being tried in Tennessee and you're an Alabama booster - that's a difficult thing."

Young's lawyers tried to convince the jury that Lang's long history of lying about Means' recruitment made his trial testimony worthless.

Lang testified that Young gave him a series of cash payments below the $10,000 threshold for IRS reporting.

Prosecutors said bank and phone records bolstered Lang's testimony, showing numerous calls between him and Young and numerous cash withdrawals and deposits during the time of Means' recruitment.

Lang also testified he took money from two colleges hoping to recruit Means - Georgia and Kentucky - and offers of cash, jobs or other incentives from Arkansas, Memphis, Mississippi, Michigan State and Tennessee.

Former coaches Rip Scherer of Memphis and Jim Donnan of Georgia testified Lang was lying.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was not asked to testify in the case, but he has been linked to the recruiting scandal by attorneys in Alabama who say he was part of a conspiracy to bring down the Crimson Tide football program.

Fulmer's attorney, Jeff Hagood, said the jury's decision provided some vindication.

"I've said all along the stakes in this entire affair were very high and this criminal conviction proves that. We've also said the lines between the good guys and bad guys were extremely clear, and this criminal conviction like the NCAA findings proves that too," he said. "(Logan Young) tried to rig the recruiting game, and after he got caught, he tried to tear down the entire NCAA. He has completely failed on both counts."

Lang has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in Means' recruitment and is cooperating with prosecutors as he awaits sentencing.