Mano a Mano

"Less is more" seems to be the strategy for both sides in the Logan Young trial.

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By midday Monday, it was apparent that Logan Young was about as likely to take the witness stand as he is to lead the University of Tennessee band in Rocky Top.

Once upon a time, prosecutors and defendants faced one another mano a mano in dramatic courtroom confrontations. Now we get accountants, bank clerks, and the thrilling sight of Young accuser Lynn Lang briefly reentering the courtroom, folding his massive arms across his massive chest, and staring across the courtroom at the witness box into the unblinking eyes of ... Young's 67-year-old female housekeeper.

It's been that kind of trial. The Super Bowl of Sleaze has featured brief moments of action interrupted by long recesses and mind-numbing bench conferences that make a City Council meeting seem thrilling. On Monday, the defense team's Hail Mary motion for acquittal fell incomplete, and Young's fate and liberty are now in the hands of the jury.

Young is in a jam because of his own words and actions, which may or may not include paying $150,000 to Lang. He was officially indicted by a federal grand jury but unofficially indicted (and already convicted) by The Commercial Appeal and football fans on the Internet, where the trash talk has been going on for more than four years. If he gets off, it will be an O.J. acquittal in many eyes. Jurors will have the final word, but until they do, let's see what lawyers say that might shed some light on this case.

A book called Sponsorship Strategy by Robert Klonoff and Paul Colby, published in 1999, is popular in some legal circles. The authors, who have experience as both prosecutors and defense attorneys, argue that "less is more" in criminal trials and "Keep it simple, stupid" is good advice. The point: Don't over-prove your point.

Writing in the Texas Tech Law Review, another lawyer, Bill Allison, said, "There is a phenomenon at work in the minds of jurors that says, when you start putting on multiple witnesses to prove the same point, you must have some doubt about that point."

Neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys in the Young trial have talked to the media, so their strategy can only be guessed at. But "less is more" seems to be the rule for both sides. In the media and on the Internet, of course, it's just the opposite. More is more. More rumors, more names, more links to other rumors and names. Lang sidekick Milton Kirk, recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper, Internet pundit Roy Adams (aka Tennstud), and NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier are household names. But none of them testified at Young's trial.

Nor did representatives of most of the seven schools that talked to Lang about obtaining the services of Albert Means. Alabama athletic director Mal Moore was barely on the witness stand for 10 minutes and skated through his testimony. Memphis high school coaches Tim Thompson and Wayne Randall were subpoenaed by the defense but did not testify. Newsweek journalist Richard Ernsberger, who deserves more credit than he has gotten locally for his reporting about Lang and Means, testified for approximately two minutes about a single line in his book, Bragging Rights. He wrote that Lang told him, "Logan Young? I've heard his name. But that's all I know about him."

Former University of Memphis coach Rip Scherer made a cameo appearance to deny promising Lang's wife a free law school education. Scherer said he earned $250,000 a year, or less than half the compensation of his successor, Tommy West, whose star defensive lineman for the last three years was Means. Former Georgia coach Jim Donnan also testified, denying that he paid Lang $700 cash but also blurting out "not enough" when asked how much he got paid at Georgia. It turned out that he made $700,000 one year, possibly as much as the entire jury put together.

Other witnesses for both sides were also brief, possibly because their testimony was so suspect. Former Alabama assistant coach Ivy Williams, a defense witness, was dreadful. He denied talking about Means in more than 200 conversations with Young. Alleged middleman Melvin Earnest, nicknamed "Botto," denied driving Lang to Young's house but admitted being friends with Young for more than 20 years and "borrowing" money from him. Did he pay it back? "Not all of it, most of it," he testified.

The defense witness who got the most face time in front of the jury was Young's accountant, David Pearson. Attorneys methodically led him through a series of Young cash withdrawals and Lang cash deposits. The amounts never matched, but there was, prosecutors noted, "time correlation."

"Follow the money" is the prosecution's advice to the jury. If the jury finds the money trail as murky as the testimony, Young will walk.

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