Man charged with bribing Huntsville police officer on trial in federal court

Huntsville

Cedric Ryans (Photo: HPD)

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.  -- The federal trial of the alleged bag man in a scheme to bribe a Huntsville police officer went through its second day Tuesday, with the defense arguing key witnesses for the government may be compromised.

Cedric Ryans is charged with bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with his alleged efforts to help his friend, Willie Leggs, a convicted drug dealer. Leggs was stopped by Huntsville police in July 2014 and three ounces of cocaine was discovered in his car.

Leggs was on federal probation at the time, and possession of drugs would likely mean his probation would be revoked and he’d be sent back to prison, prosecutors told the jury.

Leggs, who has pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme, testified Monday and Tuesday. He testified that following his arrest Ryans told him that he knew Huntsville Police Department officer Lewis Bernard Hall, and that Hall might be able to help.

The basic allegation is that Ryans approached Hall and asked if he would offer money to the arresting officer to make the case go away by saying he’d conducted an improper search of Leggs' car.

Leggs testified Ryans stored some of Leggs’ drug money at his home. He testified that Ryans relayed that it would take $15,000 to bribe the officer.

But prosecutors say the arresting officer immediately went to his superiors about the bribe offer and they told him to play along. The prosecution also contends that officer Hall, who also pleaded guilty in the case, planned to keep most of the money and only paid the arresting officer $1,000.

Leggs said Ryans took three stacks of $5,000 from the stash at his home. Prosecutors said Hall kept about half that money. Leggs said he later came up with an additional $2,000 at Hall’s request and he saw Ryans meet a police car outside his house and hand the driver money.

Defense attorney Susan James pressed Leggs on the plea agreement he signed with the government in his bribery case. James pointed out that depending on whether the government is satisfied with Leggs’ testimony in this case, it could notify his sentencing judge about his cooperation and recommend a lighter sentence.

James said Hall has a similar agreement with the government.

Leggs’ testified that he and Ryans have been friends for 25 years. But after Hall was arrested and Ryans’ role in the case became known to investigators he claimed Ryans – who’d never been to prison – urged him to take the fall in the case.

Leggs said eventually he went to the FBI to describe his role in the scheme. Leggs is still facing a state drug trafficking charge stemming from the arrest that started it all. The case is expected to resume Wednesday morning.

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