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THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2007
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Ex-Fire College head wants charges dropped

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — The lawyer for former Alabama Fire College Director W.L. Langston has asked a federal judge to throw out most of the counts against his client, saying Langston can’t be charged with theft and conspiracy because the school didn’t receive federal money.

There are 37 counts in the indictment accusing Langston of stealing more than $1.5 million for himself, friends, family and other two-year college officials.

Anthony Joseph argues in a dismissal motion filed Friday that the school never received federal money from 1998 to 2006, the years prosecutors claim Langston committed the crimes.

“There is no compelling federal interest in prosecuting alleged theft at the Fire College because federal funds are not involved,” Joseph’s motion states.

Fire College officials, however, told The Birmingham News that the school received a minimum of $107,244 annually in federal funds during the period of Langston’s alleged crimes, and as much as $238,488 in 2003.

Prosecutors will not comment on Joseph’s motion, but will respond in a later court filing, said Jill Ellis, spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Alice Martin of Birmingham said.

Langston, 65, of Tuscaloosa, is accused of using his position as director of the Fire College and head of a private foundation he created to inappropriately spend more than $1.5 million of the school’s money.

The indictment is the first case against a key target in the ongoing criminal investigation of the two-year college system.

The Fire College is located on the campus of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.

Shelton State has served as the Fire College’s fiscal agent and Shelton’s president has overseen some of the personnel decisions at the school.

The indictment states that the Fire College was created and funded by the state, which “received millions of dollars in federal assistance” for each of the years cited in the charges.

But Joseph claims in his dismissal motion that that’s not a good enough connection, and such a tie to state government-received federal funds “would lead to absurd results.”

“For example, because the state of Alabama provides money to local schools, the federal government would be entitled to prosecute an elementary school secretary who stole over $5,000 out of petty cash,” Joseph wrote.

Joseph also wants several other charges against Langston thrown out, arguing that a five-year statute of limitations prohibits charging him with alleged crimes committed before May 22, 2002.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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