The star witness, Lynn Lang, is a cheater, a liar, and a greedy exploiter of high school athletes. And that's the assessment of the prosecutor. The defendant, Logan Young Jr., is a braggart with an adolescent fixation on college football who drinks too much, talks too much, and gambles away money like it's paper. And that's according to his own attorneys.
And the star player, Albert Means, was so academically unqualified that he had to get someone else to take his college entrance exam, so dishonest that he lied about it to a federal grand jury, and so valuable that he was allowed to play four years of college football anyway without a single sanction.
Welcome to the United States of America v. Logan Young Jr., the Super Bowl of Sleaze.
"There are no heroes in this case," U.S. attorney Fred Godwin told jurors in his opening remarks.
No kidding. Whatever the outcome, the trial is likely to be remembered for two catch phrases. The first is Young's chest-thumping "He's mine!," supposedly spoken in regard to getting Means to attend the University of Alabama for the price of $150,000, payable to Lang. The other is the alliterative "Lynn Lang's lies," the cornerstone of Young's defense by lawyer Jim Neal.
Godwin, who has been on the case for four years, wasted no time laying out his line of attack in opening remarks. He practically leaped to his feet, took a few quick steps toward the jury of seven women and five men, and thundered, "This case is about the buying and selling of a young man by men who had no right to do so," and then pointing at Young, who sat at the defense table.
The first three witnesses -- Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, Young's ex-girlfriend Lisa Mallory, and Means -- established that Young worships the late Bear Bryant, gave liberally to the Alabama athletic department, drinks like a fish, and likes to holler "Roll Tide." Mallory, who met Young while working as his interior designer, testified about his heroic drinking and "He's mine!" boast, but under cross-examination agreed that he made the same claim about athletes who enrolled at schools other than Alabama. She said it was not uncommon for him to wave around wads of cash, especially when he was gambling or on a football weekend.
Means testified that Lang guided his football decisions throughout high school and often gave him spending money or gifts. He said Lang steered him to Alabama although Means liked Arkansas and Kentucky better. He said he never met or talked to Logan Young in his life. And he admitted that he never took the ACT college entrance exam but told a federal grand jury that he did.
"I was afraid," he said. "I thought it probably would affect my education."
Jurors will also hear from middleman Melvin Ernest, nicknamed "Botto," who supposedly brought Lang to Young's house in 1999, remaining downstairs while Lang and Young went upstairs to talk business. Godwin said Lang will testify that their meetings always included just the two of them "because then it's your word against mine that this ever happened."
According to Godwin, Young made 64 cash withdrawals, each for less than $10,000 to avoid IRS reporting, with $150,000 finding its way to Lang over a period of several months. Godwin promised to present "some interesting coincidences" about the timing of Young's withdrawals and Lang's bank deposits.
"Follow the money," Godwin told the jury in summation.
In his opening remarks to the jury, Neal indicated that he will essentially be putting Lang on trial.
"There is no way you will believe the government's chief witness and certainly no way you will believe Lynn Lang beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. He noted inconsistencies in Lang's story as told to journalists, Memphis attorney Bill Wade, Memphis City Schools officials, federal prosecutors, and the NCAA. He said jurors will hear contradictory testimony from former University of Memphis head football coach Rip Scherer and former Georgia coach Jim Donnan, among others.
Neal suggested that Lang pled guilty because he was facing up to 135 years in prison on the original charges. He said testimony will show that Lang skimmed money from events at Trezevant High School and summer football camps when he was a coach and had to be ordered by a court to make child-support payments when he was supposedly "awash in money."
On Tuesday, prosecutors lost an attempt to introduce testimony alleging that Young also paid former Melrose football coach Tim Thompson to get star player Kindal Moorehead to attend Alabama.
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On his return trip from the moon, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced what he describes as a state of "transcended consciousness," which resulted in feelings of "bliss and ecstasy." As he gazed at the Earth, the planets, and stars, he felt as though all things in the universe were somehow connected. In an attempt to understand why he had such an experience, he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), a nontraditional research organization that studies the powers of consciousness.
Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, will be discussing the latest IONS discoveries in a lecture titled "Secrets of the Universe Revealed" at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, January 23rd.
His fellow astronuats on the mission reported similar experiences, but only Mitchell has dedicated his life to trying to find out why -- and what that experience meant.
"One of my colleagues described it as looking on the face of God in terms of traditional religion, but I didn't," says Mitchell. "I'm a scientist, and I wanted to try and understand this better."
Looking into states of consciousness led Mitchell to explore related natural phenomena that remain unexplained by mainstream science. Since its inception in 1972, IONS has researched shifts in consciousness and has delved into the study of dreams, intuition, and clairvoyance.
"The study of the nature of consciousness was really a philosophic idea before," says Mitchell. "As I researched, I found that some aspect of that type of transcended experience was prevalent in every culture in the world in their mystical and ancient lore, but it had not come into the realm of science."
Using scientific methods, IONS investigates creativity, meditation, psychic phenomena, healing over distances and the survival of consciousness after death.
One popular research project looks at the psychic abilities of ordinary people. On its Web site, ions.org, visitors can play a psychic game where their intuitive abilities are tested. Visitors who register with the site before playing can submit their results to be studied as a part of ongoing research.
A project researching the power of prayer is under way at Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Researchers pray for some patients but not for others to see if prayer makes a difference in how fast patients recover. According to Memphian Linda Hassler, who sits on the IONS board of directors, the results have been positive for patients who are prayed for.
Most of IONS' reasearch is conducted at its retreat center located on 200 acres of rolling hills in Petaluma, California. Since the closing of the Rhine Institute, a similar research organization at Duke University, IONS is the only major facility performing this type of research. But Mitchell says that there are many smaller groups still doing similar work, and they're discovering many of the same things independent of one another.
"One reason these things have not been studied before is because mainstream scientists don't believe in some of this stuff. You can't touch it, see it, or smell it," says Hassler, who's a member of the Noetic Explorers, the local noetic science group.
IONS president James O'Dea will speak on Saturday, January 22nd, on "Consciousness: A Tool for Transformation," at First Unity Church in Cordova. Hassler says this talk will serve as a sort of introduction to noetic sciences. He will discuss the human need to create tools -- from the prehistoric use of fire to the Internet -- and how consciousness can also be used as a tool.
According to Mitchell, the Noetic Explorers organization has groups in 400 cities and 20 countries. The Memphis group has about 160 member and meets monthly to discuss the latest IONS research.
"This talk is for people who are looking for answers but haven't been able to find them anywhere else," says Mitchell. "We're hoping we can point people in the direction to look. Do we have all the answers? Heavens, no. But do we have a way of looking at things that seems to be productive? We think we do." n
James O'Dea on "Consciousness: A Tool for Transformation" on Saturday, January 22nd, at First Unity Church (9228 Walnut Grove). Edgar Mitchell on "Secrets of the Universe Revealed" on Sunday, January 23rd, at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre (1801 Exeter Rd.). For more information, call Linda Hassler at 277-3203.
Tanner was playing Survivor long before reality television. Forty years ago, he made his first million when a million still meant something. He was 34.
He made millions more over the years. At age 74, he should be enjoying the fruits of his labor, his family, his hard-won health, and the satisfactions of giving some of his fortune away, maybe to search for new treatments for the cancer that plagues him.
Instead, he is under indictment for the second time in 20 years, charged with bribing a judge to win a nasty, six-year dispute over what else? money. Both indictments stemmed from multimillion-dollar sales of Tanner companies that ought to have been career highlights. Now Peete has his reputation besmirched but can't do anything about it. He died of a heart attack in 2002, a year after ruling in Tanner's favor. Tanner gets to spend his gold and golden years fighting an indictment and haggling with lawyers and could go to prison for up to six years if convicted.
If there was ever a reminder that money can be both a blessing and a curse, this is it. Tanner and his ex-partner Jerry Peck fell out shortly after joining forces in the billboard business in 1992. Peck had the know-how and the political contacts. Tanner had the capital and the salesmanship and, among other things, the billboard rights along U.S. Highway 61 in DeSoto County. Casinos were coming to Tunica, and road signs were as precious as slot machines
But one should not enter into a competitive enterprise with Tanner without a jock strap and an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, preferably unanimous. He thrives on competition and hardship and has been doing it since growing up in the Missouri Bootheel during the Depression.
The Tanner-Peck business succeeded but the partnership failed. In 1996, Tanner sold the company to Universal Outdoor Advertising for $71 million. Peck claimed he owned 5 percent of the business with an option entitling him to as much as 49 percent. Tanner disagreed.
Seventy-one million dollars would seem to be enough for both of them. They could have split the difference. They could have cut cards. They could have had a fistfight and a beer and shook hands and moved on. Instead, they called their lawyers.
The case dragged on for five years, filling folder after folder and eventually a filing cabinet at Chancery Court with documents, depositions, claims, and counterclaims. If scholars ever do a case study of the human psychosis that enables lawyers to charge $250 an hour, this would make a good start.
The case came to trial in 2001, starting in March and ending in May. Peete ruled in Tanner's favor in October 2001, concluding that there was no partnership at all, and Peck was entitled to nothing. But Tanner wasn't through. He wanted attorney fees as well. In November, Peete ruled that Peck had to pay Tanner's lawyers $719,586.
In August 2002, Peete died at a vacation home in Florida, reportedly of a heart attack. Peck appealed to the Court of Appeals as rumblings began that the fix was in. People familiar with the case say the main accuser was someone close to Peete's family and that the bribes included credit card charges, travel and vacations, and money for a Peete family member to start a business. Sources would only speak anonymously, taking their cue from the one-paragraph indictment and Shelby County district attorney Bill Gibbons, whose only comment was that "this type of crime attacks the integrity of our judicial system."
Gibbons ordered the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into the accusations in May 2003. In light of the findings, Peete's ruling was negated. The appeals courts sent the case back to the trial court, which booted it to the Tennessee Supreme Court. It could be heard as early as April, according to appellate court clerk Susan Turner.
Peete was elected chancellor in 1990. In 1999, he was overruled by the Court of Appeals on a case in which he favored Penn National Gaming's efforts to start a horseracing track in Memphis even though the Tennessee Racing Commission had been abolished and Gibbons had vowed to oppose it. In 2003, the appellate court overruled Peete's 2002 decision in favor of developer Rusty Hyneman in a divorce case. Tanner and Hyneman were business partners in an aborted hotel project on Beale Street in 2003.