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SENTENCE FOR LANG MAY CHANGE

SENTENCE FOR LANG MAY CHANGE

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U.S. District Judge Bernice Donald had incomplete and misleading information about Lynn Lang’s employment as an assistant principal in Michigan when she sentenced him to no jail time and a $2,500 fine this week.

Lang was the government’s star witness in the Logan Young case which ended with Young being convicted of paying Lang $150,000 to get lineman Albert Means to enroll at the University of Alabama.

Lang has resigned from his job as an assistant principal at a public school in Benton Harbor, Michigan, according to school officials cited Friday in The Commercial Appeal. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Godwin, who tried the Young case and spoke at Lang’s sentencing, told The Flyer Friday that his investigator confirmed that Lang has resigned but that the resignation came after the sentencing, not before.

The issue is important because the lenience of Lang’s sentence was based on his cooperation with the government and his employment at a school that serves a large number of disadvantaged children. Godwin said the government would not object to a sentence that allowed Lang to continue his employment. At the sentencing, a seemingly remorseful and sometimes choked-up Lang said he regretted his actions. After the sentencing, however, Lang and his attorney, Pat Brown, refused to answer any questions about Lang’s job status, which was an issue in Young’s trial and had clearly influenced Judge Donald.

Pat Brown and Fred Godwin, two attorneys who work for the federal government on different sides of the street, may be the only ones who were in the dark when Lynn Lang was sentenced last week.

There is no question that Lynn Lang resigned several days before the sentencing. On January 30th, the Benton Harbor daily newspaper, The Herald-Palladium, wrote an editorial chastising the local school board for failing to keep up with Lang's problems in Memphis. The editorial says Lang has resigned, saving the board the trouble of firing him. And it suggests that board members learn to google. Which is also good advice for public defender Brown, prosecutor Godwin, and Judge Donald, all of whom either failed to find about about Lang's job status or concealed it.

Donald was not the trial judge at the Young trial and made a point, she said at the sentencing, of not following the news coverage of the trial. She sentenced Lang because he made his guilty plea in her court more than a year ago. The charges against him carried a total of 135 years of prison time, but under federal sentencing guidelines in place until this year he would have gotten 30-37 months. The U.S. Supreme Court recently gave federal judges more discretion in imposing sentences, and Donald sentenced Lang to “time served,” which amounted to part of one day he spent in jail.

“That air of arrogance has disappeared and I believe that you are truly remorseful for your actions,” she said at the sentencing.

Donald was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment.

Brown and Godwin both encouraged Donald to impose a light sentence on Lang.

Brown said Lang works with disadvantaged kids in Benton Harbor, a largely-black city on Lake Michigan near the Indiana border. Godwin praised Lang’s cooperation and said he had been truthful. Lang didn’t say anything about his teaching status when he made his sorrowful statement.

Immediately after the sentencing, reporters sought out Brown and Godwin for clarification because Lang’s truthfulness about his employment had been questioned during the Young trial. In light of published reports that Benton Harbor officials were only recently aware of Lang’s problems, his job status seemed shaky at best. Both attorneys declined to say anything.

Asked by the Flyer 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” and suggested we get a transcript (which we have done, but it will not be available until Monday). Asked if he was surprised to learn that Lang has resigned, he said “no comment” and said he would have nothing else to say.

Godwin told the Flyer Friday he was surprised to read 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. That could be technically true. Teacher resignations are often submitted one day but do not become official until accepted later by the school board, which appears to be what happened in Lang’s case. Benton Harbor Area School Supt. Paula Dawning could not immediately be reached for clarification on Friday.

“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 felony conviction and failure to report it on his school system application.

Robert Hutton, who was one of Young’s attorneys, said “we don’t think that what Lang did was a federal crime in the first place.” He added, “The key to this case was his credibility. The more misrepresentations someone makes affects their credibility.”

When he testified last month, Lang was asked about his job application in Michigan by Young attorney James Neal. A story had been published that morning in The Commercial Appeal in which Benton Harbor school officials said they did not know about Lang’s felony conviction.

“For my license to teach I indicated that,” Lang said. But he said he was unsure if he had included the information on his application with the Benton Harbor school system. Teaching candidates are certified by the state and employed by the school district.

The cornerstone of Neal’s defense strategy was “Lynn Lang’s lies.” Neal could not immediately be reached for comment. Young will be sentenced in May.

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