Several New York retailers testified Wednesday about some of the elaborate purchases Blount made for Langford. Prosecutors showed Garie Yiu, an employee at watch retailer Tourneau, a receipt for an $11,000 watch. Yiu testified that the receipt, dated Nov. 9, 2004, showed that Blount paid for the watch with his American Express credit card and asked for it to be shipped. The shipping address listed was Langford’s office in the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Receipts from men’s clothier Emenegildo Zegna showed that Blount paid $3,290 for a two-piece suit and two jackets, also shipped to Langford at his county courthouse office. Receipts from Ferragamo demonstrated that Blount paid for clothing and ladies shoes worth several thousand dollars for Langford, and $1,100 for shoes for former County Commissioner Mary Buckalew. Those items were also shipped to Langford and Buckalew’s offices.
Because the items were sent to Birmingham, Blount did not have to pay New York sales tax, only the much cheaper shipping charges, the retailers said.
Prosecutors have argued that Blount and lobbyist Al LaPierre bribed Langford with more than $230,000 in cash and gifts when Langford was president of the Jefferson County Commission. In return, Langford arranged for Blount-Parrish & Co. to be included in county bond deals that garnered $7 million in fees for Blount’s firm.
The third day of trial began with testimony from Steve Sayler, who served as Jefferson County’s Director of Finance during Langford’s tenure. Using letters from from JP Morgan,
Lehman Bros., and other large banks, prosecutors showed that Blount’s firm had been included in bond deals and interest rate swaps in 2003 and 2004. Documentation from those banks listed payments to Blount-Parrish and other firms for financial services. The banks disclosed those payments in “side letters” signed by Langford which stated that the County had requested that Blount’s firm be included. Sayler testified that he did not find out that Blount’s firm had been included in those deals until years later, when the Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating the deals.
Under cross examination, Sayler testified that the county often hired advisors for help on bonds and swaps. When asked if Blount was effective at getting people to work together, Sayler said he was.
Terri Hatcher, who has served as an assistant to Langford since 1988, when he was elected Mayor of Fairfield, testified regarding Langford’s appointment calendars and travel expense reports. The calendars Hatcher kept showed meetings between Langford, Blount, and LaPierre. Expense reports established that Langford went to New York in 2003 and 2004 on taxpayer funded trips to meet with bankers regarding county bonds.
Langford defense attorney Glennon Threatt argued that Langford did not always keep appointments on his calendar. “What that document represents is meetings that may or may not have occurred?” Threatt asked Hatcher, referring to her calendars. “Yes,” Hatcher answered.
Jurors also heard testimony from former Lehman Bros. bankers involved in structuring municipal debt, specifically derivative transactions known as interest rate swaps. Former Lehman banker James Lister testified that Blount called him in 2003 regarding Jefferson County swaps.
“Blount said he had a very good relationship with the mayor and had control of three votes on the commission,” Lister said.
Blount told Lister that Langford was interested in using Lehman Bros. because the firm was founded in Montgomery. According to Lister, Blount asked Lehman Brothers to disclose his fees only in "side letters." Lister told Blount that Lehman Brothers policy requires fees paid to third-party firms be disclosed in the transaction documents.
Robert Taylor, another Lehman employee, testified that he met with Langford regarding county bonds in August 2003. “Commissioner Langford very quickly became frustrated with me, I remember that,” Taylor said. “He said I sent you my guy, and you did not want to work with him.”
Prosecutors will resume their case when court reconvenes Thursday morning.