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Defense Rests Case In Fire College Scandal

By Associated Press

Tuscaloosa AL – Jurors are expected to begin deliberations in the criminal trial of former Alabama Fire College Director W.L. Langston Wednesday after attorneys give their closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors rested their case before lunch Tuesday, and Langston's defense attorneys rested their case after calling just one witness after lunch.

Chuck Hardin, former attorney for the Fire College and its foundation, testified for the defense.

He said the Fire College's foundation board's decision to build Langston a house near Montgomery came after foundation accountants voiced concerned about its nonprofit status because it was hoarding money without spending it.

The foundation had nearly $781,000 in the bank at the time, Hardin said.

He admitted under questioning by U.S. Assistant Attorney George Martin that there was no other discussion on how to spend the money, such as scholarships for firefighters and new buildings for the college, other than building Langston a house.

"I felt it was something the Fire College could do," Hardin said. "We had done a similar transaction at Shelton State (Community College), and I felt like this was an appropriate use of the money."

The Tuscaloosa News reported on the trial for Wednesday's editions.

After the prosecution rested, defense attorneys requested that Langston be acquitted on all charges for lack of evidence but it was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Scott Coogler.

Langston, 66, is charged with 37 counts of theft, conspiracy, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud. He's accused in an alleged scheme that took $1.5 million from the state in the form of fraudulent contracts, jobs for friends and money spent on himself or his family.

A string of prosecution witnesses outlined what little work was done by the children of former two-year system Chancellor Roy Johnson, who testified earlier that he and Langston had made a deal to hire each other's children.

Johnson's daughter, Malinda Morgan of Opelika, was hired in 1998 as a proofreader and editor, a job she retained until 2006, according to testimony.

Sonya Duncan, head of curriculum at the time, said the work Morgan did turn in was of poor quality.

"It was not up to the standards for someone I would contract out to do the work," she said. When Morgan didn't complete an assignment, Duncan said she had to finish it herself.

In testimony Monday, Roy Johnson also revealed that his son, Steve Johnson, was hired as EMS coordinator in 2001, but that no meaningful work was expected of him.


Information from: The Tuscaloosa News,

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