Ex-lobbyist Lanny Young pleads guilty to corruption|
MONTGOMERY (AP) — Former lobbyist and landfill developer Lanny Young, who has already admitted guilt once in Alabama's government corruption investigation, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a new charge involving a Northeast Alabama landfill and agreed to resume his cooperation after nine months of silence.
In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Young acknowledged paying $65,000 in bribes to Phillip Jordan when Jordan was probate judge and county commission chairman in Cherokee County. The bribes were in return for Jordan's help in getting the county commission to approve decisions that financially benefited Young and his landfill.
Federal prosecutor Louis Franklin said federal guidelines limit what he can say about any investigation, but he was smiling after watching Young plead guilty.
"Any time the government can take a guilty plea with a cooperation agreement, it helps any investigation we may or may not be involved in," he said.
Young, 44, of Montgomery, was once a well-known lobbyist. His stylish clothes and sharp wit made him stand out among the hundreds of people who are paid to try to influence state government. But two years ago, he became a high-profile target of the government corruption investigation of former Gov. Don Siegelman's administration.
In 2003, Young pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery by providing more than $100,000 in cash and gifts to Nick Bailey, Siegelman's executive secretary, for his help with issues in Montgomery.
He also admitted underreporting his 1999 income to the Internal Revenue Service by $500,000.
As part of his guilty plea, he agreed to cooperate with investigators. But court papers show that his attitude changed last July when a federal grand jury in Birmingham indicted him in the Cherokee County case. His attorney maintained he shouldn't be charged with a new offense when he had already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Montgomery. He also argued that Young could no longer assist investigators while facing charges in Birmingham.
Shortly after Young turned silent, a federal grand jury that had been meeting in Montgomery quit holding sessions.
On March 29, prosecutors agreed with Young to transfer the Cherokee County case from Birmingham to Montgomery and let him plead guilty to one count of obstructing interstate commerce by paying money to Jordan. The agreement called for eight other counts to get dropped provided he cooperates fully on any matters prosecutors raise.
Franklin said he couldn't discuss what is next in the case, but he said, "That grand jury hasn't been discharged."
In Young's plea, he admitted paying money to Jordan for his help in getting the county commission to approve Young's transfer of ownership of the landfill to a company that became Waste Management, expanding the landfill's coverage area to counties in Georgia and Tennessee, and lowering the fees the landfill had to pay to Cherokee County.
Jordan, 43, pleaded guilty earlier to accepting $65,000 in bribes. He was sentenced last week to six months in prison and six months of home detention, plus a $3,000 fine.
Young faces a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 20 years in prison for his new guilty plea, but prosecutors agreed to recommend a lighter-than-normal sentence in return for his cooperation.
During his court hearing Wednesday, he still exhibited the wit that made him such a popular figure at the Statehouse. While waiting for the judge to arrive, he cracked several jokes, including one about his forest green socks not matching his olive suit.
"You've got more to worry about that the color of your socks," his attorney, Stephen Glassroth, told him.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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