New testimony will be taken from defendant's accuser
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A federal judge delayed sentencing for a businessman convicted of paying a high school coach to steer a football player to Alabama following a newspaper report Thursday that the player's family got a big cut of the payoff.
The sentencing hearing for Logan Young, a longtime Crimson Tide booster, began Thursday afternoon but will continue Monday so new testimony can be received from his chief accuser, former high school coach Lynn Lang.
Defense lawyer James Neal said an article in The Commercial Appeal of Memphis casts doubt on whether defensive lineman Albert Means, the player at the heart of a recruiting scandal, was a helpless victim or a payoff recipient.
Federal sentencing guidelines could call for stronger punishment for Young if he was the prime architect of a payoff conspiracy and Means was a "vulnerable victim."
"You cannot be a vulnerable victim if you're a willing participant," Neal said in asking U.S District Court judge Daniel Breen to continue the hearing.
The Commercial Appeal quoted Lang as saying the Means family got about $60,000 of the $150,000 he says Young paid to have Means sign with Alabama five years ago.
Breen gave Neal permission to call Lang into court to say if the newspaper article was accurate.
Defense lawyers also filed a request for a new trial based on the article. No date was scheduled for a hearing on that request.
Neal said prosecutors portrayed Means as a victim at Young's trial and evidence that Means got a large amount of money from Lang could have changed the jury's verdict.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin said Means was a victim of the recruiting conspiracy even if his family got some of the money. Godwin described Means as a naive teen from a low-income, broken home who trusted his high school coach.
In its article, The Commercial Appeal quoted Lang as saying he was tired of talk that he kept all of the money for himself.
"I took care of that family," Lang told the newspaper, "and I took care of Albert all through his senior year and up until he went to Alabama."
Means, who has consistently refused to talk about the scandal, declined comment on Lang's allegations.
Young was convicted in February on money laundering and racketeering charges. Godwin indicated in court that sentencing guidelines call for 24 to 30 months in prison.
The judge can deviate from those guidelines, and defense lawyers can seek a sentence that does not include prison time. Such a sentence could include a fine, probation or house arrest.
At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, the defense called medical witnesses who said Young suffers from kidney disease and needs a transplant.
The government countered that Young could get dialysis and other medical care in prison.
Lang was the main prosecution witness at Young's trial. Lang said then that he helped the Means family financially but did not indicate that large amounts of money were involved.
Prosecutors and the NCAA said Means was unaware Lang was shopping him around to college recruiters.
Lang testified that other universities -- including Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Memphis, Mississippi, Michigan State and Tennessee -- offered him money or jobs to get Means.
No charges were filed against anyone from those schools. Three former coaches -- Rip Scherer of Memphis, Jim Donnan of Georgia and Ivy Williams, an Alabama assistant -- testified Lang was lying.
Means' recruitment became part of an NCAA investigation that led to sanctions against Alabama in 2002, costing the Crimson Tide scholarships and bowl appearances.
Lang, former head coach at Trezevant High in Memphis, testified against Young while waiting to be sentenced on a guilty plea to crossing state lines as part of a racketeering conspiracy.
Lang later was sentenced to two years probation and 500 hours of community service work after prosecutors supported his request to avoid prison.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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