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Langford has been released from prison

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Judge L. Scott Coogler of the Northern District of Alabama issued a ruling reducing the sentence of Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford to time served. Mayor Langford arrived at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham Saturday night.

“We welcome him home to his beloved city and urge everyone to join us in prayers for Mayor Langford and his family,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement.

Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) has been in communication with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and the White House, urging officials to permit Langford’s release after she was informed by his attorneys of the Mayor’s most recent hospitalization.

“As I have said before, justice should be fair, but merciful. I am deeply grateful to all those who heeded our renewed call for the immediate compassionate release of Mayor Larry Langford,” said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Selma). “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town, Senator Doug Jones, our federal partners, and all those who worked side-by-side with our office despite the government shutdown to secure Mayor Langford’s release. The holiday season is a reminder of the importance of family, and the commutation of Mayor Langford’s sentence means that our former Mayor can spend his final days at home in Alabama with loved ones. My prayers are with the whole Langford family as they reunite and provide comfort to Mayor Langford in the days and weeks ahead.”

On Saturday, family members of Larry Langford attended a Saturday afternoon vigil for the former Mayor of Birmingham and Chairman of the Jefferson County Commission at the Fairfield Community Center. Langford is a former Mayor of Fairfield.

Langford has served nine years of a 15 year federal prison sentence for 61 counts of bribery and corruption. As Chairman of the Jefferson County Commission Langford received numerous at least $235,000 in bribes from bond writer and former Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Bill Blount in order to continue refinancing Jefferson County’s massive sewer debt. The speculative auction rate bonds, the sheer size of the debt, and the Great Recession all brought Alabama’s largest county into bankruptcy. While out of bankruptcy now, Birmingham sewer customers continue to shoulder the load of paying for the fiscal disaster. The bankruptcy was the largest municipal bankruptcy is American history and has made it difficult to lure employers to the greater Birmingham area. Judge Coogler is the same judge who presided over Langford’s trial and sentencing.

Sewell and his family have pleaded for his early release for years as his health declined. The prison system most recently denied the family’s request for compassionate release as recently as November 2.

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Over the Christmas holiday, Langford’s condition worsened and he was sent to a hospital. Langford is 72 years old and reportedly suffering from several illnesses including end-stage pulmonary disease, emphysema, and heart failure. His condition is considered terminal and is expected to only live 18 months or less.
The family said in a release:

“Mr. Langford has reached a point medically where there is nothing more that can be done for him in the facility. We are all grateful that the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice saw fit to exercise compassion and allow him to return home with his family.

“We are most appreciative of the hard work and collective efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District, the offices of U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama state Sen. Bobby Singleton, Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, as well as all those who issued press releases, wrote letters, and said prayers.”

The Alabama Media Group reports that Judge Coogler granted the reduction in sentence after a request by Hugh J. Hurwitz, Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons through Jay E. Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Langford’s sentence was reduced to time served and once he leaves prison he will begin the 36 months term of supervised release previously imposed, which will include home confinement and possible electronic monitoring.

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Coogler also ordered that Langford “shall be released from the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons as soon as his medical condition permits, the release plan is implemented, and travel arrangements can be made.”

Langford had not been scheduled for release until May 2023.

Rep. Sewell previously advocated for the compassionate release of Mayor Langford in 2015 and 2016 during the Obama Administration. She represents the Seventh Congressional District.

(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group, WBRC Channel 6, and WVTM Channel 13 news contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with over nine years at Alabama Political Reporter. During that time he has written 8,297 articles for APR. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims increased again last week

It is the highest number of new claims recorded in a single week since July.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 14,084 new unemployment claims filed last week, up from 10,986 new claims the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

The number of new claims was the highest in a single week since July.

Of last week’s claims, 11,124 were related to COVID-19, representing 79 percent. Of the previous week’s claims, 80 percent were related to COVID-19.

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Congress

SPLC responds to arrest of man carrying Confederate flag inside U.S. Capitol

Kevin Seefried and his son, Hunter, face multiple charges connected with their alleged part in the deadly Capitol riot,

Eddie Burkhalter

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Widely shared images of a white man carrying a Confederate flag across the floor of the U.S. Capitol during last week’s deadly attempted insurrection is a jarring reminder of the treasonous acts that killed more than 750,000 Americans during the Civil War, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“Just as defeated Confederate soldiers were forced to surrender the Civil War and end their inhumane treatment of Black people, the rioter who brazenly carried a Confederate flag into the Capitol has been forced to surrender to federal authorities,” said Lecia Brooks, chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Friday following the arrests of Kevin Seefried, 51, and his 23-year-old son Hunter.

Seefried, the Baltimore man allegedly seen in those photographs carrying the Confederate flag, and his son are charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Hunter is also charged with destroying government property.

“Incited by the President’s disinformation campaign, the rioter’s decision to brazenly roam the halls of Congress clinging to this painful symbol of white supremacy was a jarring display of boundless white privilege,” Brooks’s statement reads. “Despite the revisionist history promoted by enthusiasts, his disgraceful display is proof that the Confederate flag clearly represents hate, not heritage.”

Brooks added:

 “Over 750,000 American lives were lost because of the Confederacy’s treasonous acts. We cannot allow more blood to be shed for efforts to split our Union. January’s immoral coup attempt is an embarrassment to the United States, and we call on the federal government to prosecute these insurrectionists to the fullest extent of the law.”

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An affidavit detailing the charges states that videos taken during the riot show both Seefrieds enter the Capitol building through a broken window, that Hunter helped break, at about 2:13 p.m.

Both men on Jan. 12 voluntarily talked with FBI agents and admitted to their part in the riots, according to court records. 

The elder Seefreid told the FBI agent that he traveled to the rally to hear Trump speak and that he and his son joined the march and were “led by an individual with a bull horn.” 

There were numerous pro-Trump attendees at the rally and march to the Capitol who had bull horns, according to multiple videos taken that day, but at the front of one of the largest groups of marchers with a bull horn was far-right radio personality Alex Jones, who was walking next to Ali Alexander, organizer of the Stop the Steal movement. 

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Alexander in three separate videos has said he planned the rally, meant to put pressure on Congress voting inside the Capitol that day, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, and Arizona U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs. Alexander is now in hiding, according to The Daily Beast

Congressman Brooks’s spokesman told APR on Tuesday that Brooks does not remember communicating with Alexander. 

“Congressman Brooks has no recollection of ever communicating in any way with whoever Ali Alexander is. Congressman Brooks has not in any way, shape or form coordinated with Ali Alexander on the January 6th ‘Save America’ rally,” the statement from the congressman’s spokesman reads. 

Jones and Alexander can be seen leading the march in a video taken and posted to Twitter by freelance journalist Raven Geary. 

“This is history happening. We’re not giving into globalists. We’ll never surrender,” Jones yells into his bullhorn as they marched toward the Capitol. 

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Health

Alabama officials working to ID missed COVID-19 deaths

It will be some time before we can truly understand the death and destruction caused by COVID-19.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Reported deaths have skyrocketed in recent weeks as ADPH reviews death records to ensure no COVID deaths are missed. Several hundred deaths remain undated. (ADPH DATA/APR GRAPHIC)

The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported 598 COVID-19 deaths over the past three days, one of the highest three-day totals since the pandemic began. But many of those deaths happened weeks, and even months, ago — evidence of the work ADPH is doing to ensure all deaths caused by the disease are counted.

Despite the common myth that many COVID-19 deaths are of people who didn’t actually die from the disease, the opposite is often true. The death toll is likely an undercount. The Alabama Department of Public Health since Nov. 11 has been working to make sure those who died from the disease, or from illnesses brought on by it, are properly classified as such. 

At least 5,945 people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama as of Thursday, according to ADPH.

At least 792 Alabamans died from COVID-19 in December, making it one of the deadliest months since the start of the pandemic, and as new deaths are reported, the total is likely to grow.

At least 1,118 deaths have been reported in January, but the vast majority of those reported deaths actually occurred in December or earlier. Only 106 actually occurred in January, though many of the reported deaths remain undated.

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It takes some time for ADPH to review medical records and verify a death is caused by COVID-19, and the department reports deaths in two ways: In the first, the death is reported on the day ADPH confirms the death as being from the disease. In the second, ADPH reports the date on which the death actually occurred. Confirmation can take weeks, or longer.

The U.S. on Tuesday recorded more COVID-19 deaths than on any other single day during the pandemic, at 4,327, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been at least 384,204 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., but that figure is likely an undercount, according to medical experts. 

“Generally, we would expect COVID to be listed on the death certificate, but that might not necessarily be the case,” said Dr. Karen Landers, assistant state health officer at ADPH, speaking to APR recently. “So it is possible they could still be determined to be a COVID death as a result of comorbidities that were triggered or made worse from the viral infection.” 

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The CDC and the CDC’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System guidelines state that 30 days after a COVID-19 diagnosis a person is presumed to have recovered, which means that if that person were hospitalized for more than 30 days and dies, it’s possible that their death won’t be classified as from COVID-19 by the workers who input that data into the system. 

ADPH has a team of workers who review those databases and medical records to determine if a death was in fact due to COVID-19, or medical complications as a result of the disease. That team includes a primary care physician who handles the adult cases, an OB-GYN who reviews cases of pregnant women and Landers herself, who deals with deaths of juveniles, Landers said. 

Landers said those staff members are going back through death certificates and medical records and looking to see if the person did have COVID at some point, and what role that might have played in their death. 

“We made this commitment under Dr. Harris’s direction that we would look very meticulously at each one of these because, again, it’s still a learning process about this virus,” Landers said, referring to Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. “It is extremely important for us to be accurate in terms of the data so that we can capture, what is the mortality rate, why did people die from COVID-19 and what are the contributory factors to COVID-19?” 

Landers dispelled an often-mentioned myth that there’s money to be made by incorrectly identifying deaths as COVID-19. 

“We’re not gonna get paid any more money in the Alabama Department of Public Health for one death or 10 deaths,” Landers said. “Data accuracy is important from the standpoint of knowing, okay, how deadly is this disease?”

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s division of infectious diseases, told APR last month that during recent shifts at the hospital she learned of a patient who came in with severe COVID-19 pneumonia in late November and progressively worsened, requiring ICU care.

“They continue to deteriorate. They get what we call ARDS or adult respiratory distress syndrome,” Marrazzo said. “They’re in the unit for another 10 to 12 days,  then, like many people who are persistently on the ventilator they get what’s called a nosocomial pneumonia.” 

 “So now you’re taking care of somebody who’s in an intensive care unit. They’re getting multiple antibiotics. They can get complications from the antibiotics that we can’t prevent, and you are now trying so hard to keep them going, and hopefully alive,” Marrazzo said. 

The hope is always that someone will improve and be released before the 30-day timeline, Marrazzo said, but hospital stays of more than 30 days are not uncommon. 

“What if on January 2 they have a cardiac arrest, or they have an episode of septicemia or septic shock from an infection that they acquired as a consequence of being so sick and in the ICU?” Marrazzo said. “That COVID diagnosis that drove them into the hospital so long ago, may not show up on their death certificate, and so attributing deaths to COVID is going to be a real skill, as we look at this surveillance from these databases.” 

“So Dr. landers is absolutely correct,” Marrazzo said. “And it’s another reason that I think the toll of this pandemic on our families, our communities, everybody, is really not going to become clear until we’ve had a chance to get our heads above water and go back and look at some of these sources.” 

ADPH in a statement on Tuesday said the department continues to review a large number of deaths. 

“At this time, two-thirds of the deaths have been reviewed and ADPH expects this will take a few more weeks to complete. This may result in additional death numbers which are historic and do not reflect recent mortality due to COVID-19,” the statement reads.

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Legislature

Alabama lawmaker will attend her 19th COVID funeral

Rep. Barbara Drummond: “This virus has exposed the skeletons of not only Alabama but across the nation.”

Josh Moon

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When it comes to the tragedy of the COVID-19 virus, Rep. Barbara Drummond is more familiar than most. On Friday, Drummond will attend the funeral of a 56-year-old friend who died from coronavirus. It will be her 19th funeral this year for a close friend or family member who has died from the virus.

Drummond joined the Alabama Politics This Week Podcast to discuss the devastation she’s witnessed from the virus, and how it has exposed serious inequalities around the state and country.

“This virus has exposed the skeletons of not only Alabama but across the nation,” Drummond said. “The disparities not only in health care. But in education. In income. When you look at the African American communities that are affected by this virus, they are food deserts. People can’t get healthy foods. They can’t get access to quality health care. That’s what’s going on here.”

Drummond said that for too long, poor communities in this state have been vilified and thought of as deadbeats who don’t want to work, but in reality, they are stuck in a perpetual cycle of poverty due to a lack of basic resources and access to quality education, health care and job opportunities. 

“I hear people say all the time that people in this community don’t want to work,” Drummond said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. They don’t have the opportunity to support themselves and their families most of the time. If you think about it, you don’t know anyone who grew up dreaming of being poor.”

Drummond also discussed the upcoming legislative session and the Democrats’ plans to address some of the devastation from COVID. However, that work can’t be done until the Republican leadership that controls both houses establishes a workable plan to conduct the state’s business in a safe manner. 

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Drummond said she’s been in contact with leaders and has heard details of the plan. She’s not exactly comfortable. 

“I would not be honest to sit here and say I have no fears in going for the session,” Drummond said. “But I will go in with the recommendations of the CDC and the common sense that my mom raised me with. I will go because we have work to do and that work is very important to our state, especially now.”

You can listen to the entire interview with Drummond at the Alabama Politics This Week website or on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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