Friday, January 28, 2005

THIRD AND LONG IN LOGAN YOUNG TRIAL

THIRD AND LONG IN LOGAN YOUNG TRIAL

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2005 at 4:00 AM

A Hail Mary pass to the judge is under review and defendant Logan Young is looking at third and long as the two sides take a weekend break in YoungÕs trial in federal court in Memphis.

Young is charged with bribery and conspiracy for allegedly paying $150,000 to football coach Lynn Lang to influence star lineman Albert Means to enroll at the University of Alabama. He has listened impassively all week at the defense table as the government presented its case and several old friends and foes testified.

On Friday, the defense put on its first two witnesses, former University of Georgia head football coach Jim Donnan and former Alabama assistant football coach and recruiter Ivy Williams. Much of FridayÕs session was taken up with discussion of a defense motion to dismiss the case because, in laymanÕs terms, what Young is accused of doing is not a crime.

Defense attorneys previously made the motion almost a year ago, and U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen ruled against it.

After the government completed its proof Thursday, defense attorney Robert Hutton made the motion again. That prompted U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin to get permission to put on one more government witness Friday. The witness was former Memphis City Schools Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson, who testified that Lang and his assistant coach Milton Kirk be fired after the Means story broke and Kirk pleaded guilty. Lang wound up resigning instead, while Kirk was suspended for a year and rehired.

The issue raised by Hutton is whether it is a federal crime to influence a teacher or coach to do something that does not impair his or her ability as a teacher or coach. Hutton used the example of paying a teacher to give a student an A as opposed to paying a teacher to tutor after hourrs/p>

The defense will present the bulk of its case starting Monday. Donnan and Williams were allowed to testify Friday for logistical reasons. Current NFL player Kindal Moorehead also testified, but only out of the presence of the jury. It is not clear how his testimony will be used. Moorehead was recruited by Williams and went to Alabama.

Donnan was somewhat more effective than Williams. He testified that he met with Lang in Memphis and that Lang Òhad his hand outÓ for bribes and that Donnan walked out of the meeting and reported Lang to the NCAA. He also said Lang never told him the price for Means was $200,000, a figure widely tossed about by, among others, The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper in Memphis.

The ESPN analyst was in his fourth year as head coach at Georgia when his name came up in the Means case and he lost his job. He answered a firm ÒNoÓ when asked if he ever offered Lynn Lang any money to get Means to go to Georgia. He said the university gave Lang $500 for working at a football camp and Means $194 for expenses for a campus visit. Lang testified that Donnan himself paid him $700. After a discussion with the jury out of the courtroom, Godwin was allowed to ask Donnan in front of the jury how much money he made in his final year as a head coach. Donnan said his total compensation was $700,000. The implication was that Donnan had a lot of incentive to lie about the alleged $700.

Williams is now an assistant football coach at Savannah State College but formerly was in charge of recruiting for Alabama in the Memphis area. He recruited Albert Means in 1999. He testified that he met Lynn Lang in 1999 but did not tell him to get an impostor to take the ACT college entrance exam for Means as Lang has told others.

ÒI was told by Coach Lang that the young man was fully qualified,Ó he said.

Godwin questioned Williams about the frequency of his telephone contacts and personal contacts with Young. Williams told the NCAA in 2000 that he talked to Young 10-12 times but later told a grand jury he talked to Young more than 200 times. Williams tried to argue that there is a difference between talking to someone who calls you and calling someone yourself.

Godwin also brought out that Williams and Young talked by phone for ten minutes in January at about the time Means visited Alabama. Williams and Young also had dinner together before Means signed with Alabama.

ÒDid you discuss the recruiting of Albert Means?Ó Godwin asked.

ÒNo,Ó Williams replied.

Starting Monday, the defense will present witnesses to discredit Lang and other government witnesses. The mysterious Melvin Ernest, also known as ÒBotto,Ó could make his first appearance. ÒBottoÓ is a former football coach and high-school hanger-on who allegedly drove Lang to meet with Young and acted as middleman between Young and other coaches.

Other witnesses are likely to include current and former high school and college football coaches. The prosecution was able to introduce testimony about former Melrose football coach Tim Thompson and his ties to Young, so the defense may also want to deal with that.

The government did not call either ÒBottoÓ or Milton Kirk or anyone from the NCAA. Lang admitted on the stand telling different versions of his story to the NCAA and, initially, to federal prosecutors. Because of his deal to change his plea to guilty, he faces five years in prison instead of the theoretical 135 years in the original charges.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

HERENTON ACKNOWLEDGES FATHERING CHILD

Told confidantes he hoped press conference would defuse issue.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2005 at 4:00 AM

In the latest shocker involving a ranking public official, Memphis mayor Willie Herenton disclosed on Thursday afternoon that he had fathered a child by "an individual who I had a relationship with." The mother was not identified in the mayor's prepared statement, but the Flyer has learned that she is Claudine Marsh, a foreign-born woman in her 30's whom the mayor became acquainted with outside his governmental routine.

Speaking to reporters summoned to the East Memphis office of his attorney, Mitchell Moskovitz, Herenton said he "look[ed] forward to pursuing the privileges and the responsibility" of caring for the child's needs.

"As the mayor, I have both a public and a private life," Herenton said. "However, I felt the compelling need to disclose this personal aspect of my life, and I respectfully request that the media respect my privacy as well as the privacy of all the individuals involved."

The 64-year-old Herenton, who has been divorced for years and is the father of three previous children, all now grown, insisted he would answer no questions on the matter of the newborn. "[A]s a practical measure," Herenton said, he would be referring all further questions to Moskovitz, who later indicated that the child was a four-month-old boy and confirmed that the mother was not a government employee of any sort. (Marsh had been employed by The Peabody, the Flyer learned.)

"As the mayor, I'm fully cognizant of my responsibility to the citizens who elected me," said Herenton, who asked that he be allowed to "move forward" with his mayoral agenda.

"I'm not going to be chased down for interviews by reporters," Herenton declared , in an echo of the recent controversy involving a television anchor who pressed him for the answer to a hypothetical question about his potential resignation as a means of furthering city-county consolidation.

To be pressed further by the media would "distract me from carrying out my duty as the mayor," Herenton said.

The Herenton bombshell came on the heels of national publicity attending state Senator John Ford's acknowledgement, in court hearings concerning requested child-support payments for a child he had fathered, that he was living in two different residences simultaneously, helping provide for two other sets of offspring, by as many mothers.

In calls made to confidantes Thursday morning, notifying them of his pending announcement, Herenton indicated that his decision to go public owed much to the news environment surrounding the Ford matter. The mayor said he hoped that going the press-conference route would help defuse the matter. There were reports also that an imminent legal procedure might have been the goad.

(The Flyer will bring further news as it develops.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

PLAN TO MERGE 10 MEMPHIS SCHOOLS UNVEILED

PLAN TO MERGE 10 MEMPHIS SCHOOLS UNVEILED

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Ten Memphis City Schools have been identified in a merger proposal by Superintendent Carol Johnson to save the cash-strapped district millions in capital improvements and operating costs. The recommendation is expected to save the district $5.8 million for the first year, beginning with the 2005-2006 school year, and total $46.8 million in savings for the entire five-year transitional period.

Johnson and staff members presented the proposal during a board meeting Tuesday evening. The recommendation calls for five elementary schools: Stafford, Dunn, Orleans, Locke, and Walker to be merged into five other elementary schools: Cummings, Norris, Lincoln, Georgia Avenue, and Ford Road, respectively. If approved, the five schools merging into the remaining facilities would be closed at the end of the current school year.

The proposal was the result of a seven-month study of underutilized schools commissioned by the school board last year. Mergers were considered for schools with enrollments less than 300 students and a building capacity of less than 50 percent. School merger criteria also included the history of schools, proximity to neighboring schools, and building utilization. Census data during the last two cycles showed a decrease in not only the number of elementary school-age students, but also in the total population surrounding the five schools slated for closure. Much of the decrease is the result of several area housing developments that have either been closed by the city or undergone a reduction in the number of units.

As part of the plan, students involved in the merger will live within walking distance, a mile-and-a-half or less, from their schools. Johnson said the mergers would combine the best of both schools, with all previous programs and services in place at the new locations. District leadership teams will determine which principals stay on to oversee the new schools. Teachers with follow their students to the merged schools. “Specialty” positions, like counselors and librarians, will be allocated based on seniority and qualifications. Duplicate non-teaching positions, like custodians and secretaries, will be surplused for other employment within the district.

While the majority of the board expressed an interest in Johnson’s proposal, veteran commissioner Carl Johnson did not approve. “My main concern is that we don’t have a crystal ball to see how this will affect students and the communities in the long term,” he said. “People are thinking school closure is the answer, but people could vote with their feet, and their feet could take them to [surrounding] counties.”

The plan was reviewed with affected principals early Tuesday, with follow-up visits from district administrators with school personnel is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. A series of community forums and parent meetings will also be held before a board vote. Johnson hopes to have the sessions complete in time for a vote at the February 28 school board meeting.

The proposal did not include middle or high school assessments.

The complete merger report presented at Tuesday’s board meeting can be found on the MCS website: http://www.memphis-schools.k12.tn.us/.

Friday, January 14, 2005

FROM MY SEAT: De ANGELO'S COMING BAAAAAACK!

FROM MY SEAT: De ANGELO'S COMING BAAAAAACK!

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2005 at 4:00 AM

FAITH RESTORED It had been a gloomy week for University of Memphis sports. But it all changed at precisely 1 pm Friday afternoon on the second floor of the U of M’s Athletic Office Building.

Facing a crowd of family, friends, boosters, students, and media types, DeAngelo Williams -- the greatest player in the history of Tiger football and holder of every rushing record the book can fit -- approached a podium laden with microphones and recorders to announce whether or not he would enter this spring’s National Football League draft. (When he accidentally knocked a recorder to the floor, one wise guy cut the tension by shouting “Fumble!”) Williams opened his comments by thanking the entire Memphis community for its patience. Then the fun began.

Spoke the junior tailback, “I’m going to forego my NFL career . . . .” However Williams finished this sentence no one will ever know, for “Ode to Joy” might as well have been playing. Williams is blessed with a smile that puts Magic Johnson’s to shame, but at this time in Memphis football history, in this room, he had a run for his money from all attendees, young, old, and in between.

Why come back for another year of college, with all that money on the table in the pros? Williams’s answers seemed to come out of a Frank Merriwell novel. “It was a very difficult, but easy decision . . . . It came down to the NFL vs. the city of Memphis, and the city of Memphis won, hands down . . . . I could gain a lot by going to the NFL, but I’d lose a lot by leaving Memphis.” Williams noted conversations he’s had with former Tigers now in the pro ranks like Jimond Pugh and Isaac Bruce, chats where he’s been left with the impression that pro football is fun . . . but a business. And he enjoys the fun that comes almost around the clock with being a college football star. “I like meeting people in class,” he said between smiles. “I like walking out of the tunnel, seeing the kids, signing autographs, running through the Tiger . . . when it’s inflatable.” (When his pro career is done someday, the man might try some stand-up comedy. That smile’s an ice-breaker and then some.)

According to Williams, no one -- not even his mother, Sandra Hill, in attendance at the press conference -- knew of his decision until he spoke into the microphones. But it was his mother, one has to believe, who wound up with the biggest impact on the choice. “My mom really wanted me to come back and get my degree,” he stressed. “I made a promise to her before I came to college. I knew her wanting me to return wasn’t about the Heisman.”

Ah, yes. The Heisman. Sport’s most fabled trophy will be at the center of discussion for the rest of Williams’s days as a Tiger. The front runners for the 2005 trophy will certainly be Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson and Texas quarterback Vince Young. Williams will enter the fall with 4,062 career yards and 41 touchdowns, more than enough resume to place him among the top five candidates. But if he doesn’t score a single touchdown in 2005, he’s already won, as has the University of Memphis.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” summarized coach Tommy West, himself at the podium after hearing the announcement. “I’m so proud of DeAngelo’s approach to this decision. We spent hours and hours together . . . I’m sick of him right now.” More laughter. When pressed about which way West thought his star was leaning, the coach quipped, “I had a real strong feeling that he would do one or the other.”

More Merriwell from the guest of honor: “I asked myself, have I done everything I can possibly do for the University of Memphis? I want to keep developing friendships with the fans and the players on the team.”

I got about 30 seconds with Williams after he completed his formal remarks. I asked if he had ever made this many people this happy . . . without his shoulder pads on. “No,” he replied through one more cheek-splitting smile. “But it sure feels good.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

LOSE CITY SCHOOL CHARTER, HERENTON TELLS ROTARY

LOSE CITY SCHOOL CHARTER, HERENTON TELLS ROTARY

Posted By on Tue, Jan 11, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Mayor Willie Herenton wants the city school board to give up its charter in order to achieve consolidation with Shelby County or at least support a referendum on the question.

Speaking to the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday, Herenton revived the charter surrender idea that has been floated at least twice in the last 12 years of his administration without a favorable response.

He said he sent a letter to the school board asking members to expedite consolidation by charter surrender. He said the board should at least allow Memphians to vote on consolidation of the school systems by that method.

The idea was previously proposed by Herenton in 2003 and, in a different form, in 1993 when a task force said the city of Memphis could legally surrender its charter but should consider alternatives.

Herenton spoke for about 15 minutes and answered a few questions in general terms. He said that doing nothing will hurt the city and county schools and increase the financial strain on both city and county government.

The school board has three new members but is not likely to dissolve itself. In 2002, the board declined to act on yet another task force plan to overhaul the way schools are funded.

Herenton said his opposition comes mainly from suburban mayors and their constituents and he wants to see if Memphians will start a grassroots movement in favor of consolidation.

The Rotary Club members applauded politely, but some raised questions about the practical impact of a charter surrender. One member said it would open parts of Memphis such as the Wolfchase Galleria shopping mall to annexation by suburbs.

The mayor said Memphis is currently competing with Louisville for a California-based biomedical company and that Louisville has the advantage of having been consolidated since 2003.

Friday, January 7, 2005

TANNER INDICTED FOR BRIBING JUDGE PEETE

TANNER INDICTED FOR BRIBING JUDGE PEETE

Posted By on Fri, Jan 7, 2005 at 4:00 AM

William B. Tanner, whose flamboyant and contentious business career has earned him considerable time in courtrooms over the years, has now earned his second felony indictment -- this one for bribing the late Chanellor Floyd Peete in connection with one of the several lawsuits Tanner was involved with.

Tanner and co-defendant Beverly Davis, a financial consultant, were indicted by the Shelby County grand jury on Thursday and are free on $6,000 bond each after voluntarily surrendering to custody on Friday.

"This kind of crime attacks the integrity of our judicial system," said District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who congratulated the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for its work in the case. Gibbons said he had asked the TBI to conduct an investigation in May of 2003.

The indictment focuses on Peete's favorable 2001 ruling for Tanner in litigation brought against him by Jerry W. Peck, Tanner's former partner in the billboard business, one of several fields in which Tanner -- an entrepreneur in broadcast advertising and automobiles, as well -- had overnight success.

According to the indictment, Tanner and Davis "did unlawfully and intentionally offer, confer, or agree to confer a pecuniary benefit to influence the opinon, judgment, or exercise of discretion" of Peete in the case.

Tanner, who has been battling cancer in recent years, was sentenced to federal prison in 1985 after pleadig guilty to mail fraud charges and filing false income tax returns. He was also the defendant in several other lawsuits by former associates, besides the one pressed by Peck.

Chancellor Peete died unexpectedly while on a visit to Florida, where he owned real property, in 2002.

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