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.