Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin and federal public defender Pat Brown gave false information to U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald about Lynn Lang's job status which influenced Donald to give Lang a lenient sentence.
Lang, the government's star witness in the Logan Young Jr. trial, was sentenced February 7th to no jail time and fined $2,500. He faced a maximum of 135 years in prison on the charges on which he was indicted. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 30 to 37 months.
Godwin and Brown told Donald that Lang is working as an assistant principal at Benton Harbor High School in Michigan. In fact, Lang resigned effective February 2nd, according to Superintendent Paula Dawning's office. He submitted his resignation before that. It was the subject of an editorial in a Benton Harbor newspaper on January 30th -- eight days before the sentencing.
Lang said nothing during or after the sentencing to correct the record, and both Godwin and Brown dodged reporters who attempted to ask them about it. Lang's credibility and change of heart to "tell the truth about the things that made him look bad" were central to the government's case against Young, who was convicted of paying $150,000 to Lang to get lineman Albert Means to enroll at the University of Alabama.
Brown and Godwin both encouraged Donald to impose a light sentence on Lang and made much of his job as an assistant principal in Benton Harbor, a largely black city on Lake Michigan near the Indiana border.
Asked by the Flyer last Friday if Lang had resigned, Brown said, "Why do you ask?" He then said, "Whatever I said in court last week is what I said."
Godwin told the Flyer last Friday he was surprised to learn that Lang had resigned. He said he had an investigator check with school officials in Benton Harbor and was told that Lang actually resigned after the sentencing. By the most generous interpretation, that is technically true. Dawning's office said the school board accepted Lang's resignation February 8th. But a week earlier, the Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium chastised the board for getting "caught with egg all over its face" and apparently not knowing how to use the Internet and the Google search engine to find out about Lang's troubles in Memphis.
"I had been told and certainly believed he was still employed," said Godwin, adding that he was, however, aware that Lang's status was uncertain because of his failure to report his indictment on his school application.
At the sentencing, a seemingly remorseful and sometimes choked-up Lang said he regretted his actions. A transcript of the hearing shows that Lang gave every indication that he was still working at Benton Harbor High School.
"The school that Mr. Godwin references, is it a high school or a middle school?" asked Judge Donald.
"High school," said Lang. "I've always been at high school."
"Do the people at this new school have a sports program?" Donald asked.
"Yes, ma'am," said Lang. "The school, Benton Harbor High School, they have a football and basketball program."
A moment later, Donald said, "But the fact that you are going to be working around young children at a school where you have been assigned as the assistant principal gives me some concern. That concern has been largely ameliorated by your statements and those of Mr. Godwin and Mr. Brown."
Brown said Lang had obtained a master's degree in Michigan and "has been employed as an assistant principal at Benton Harbor High School in Michigan."
Godwin, who is from Michigan, said Benton Harbor "is not an easy place to be an assistant principal, it's an East St. Louis kind of place, it's a place that is a tough town ... . And he's there at that job right now."
Godwin recommended a sentence "that would allow him to continue his employment" and said Lang understands that "the truth is everything."
Donald, who was not the judge in the Young case, said, "I don't know about his testimony, and I have intentionally refrained from reading any accounts about the trial because I knew the sentencing was coming up."
Donald told the Flyer she could not comment on the case.