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VOL. 122 | NO. 186 | Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Judge Defers Ford's Jailing

By Bill Dries

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Former state Sen. John Ford will not be reporting to prison later this month as scheduled.

Monday, U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen delayed the Oct. 17 report date to a federal prison in Anthony, Texas, possibly until sometime in December or after Ford is tried on federal corruption charges in Nashville.

The delay is to allow Ford's attorney to obtain and review a 3,000-page transcript of Ford's Memphis bribery trial. Ford was convicted of a bribery charge in April and sentenced in August by Breen to five and a half years in prison. The federal Bureau of Prisons ordered the October report date.

Waltzing - but not to jail

Ford's attorney, Robert C. Brooks, argued Monday that it would be unfair to Ford to imprison him before Brooks has had a chance to file a motion for Ford's release on bond at least pending the outcome of the Nashville trial next month.

Brooks was appointed by the court as Ford's new attorney in the Memphis case after the conviction in the Tennessee Waltz corruption sting. FBI agents posed as corrupt executives of a front company, eCycle, and recorded Ford taking bribes to file legislation on behalf of the company.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza argued that delaying the report date would amount to treating Ford "differently" than other defendants convicted in one case and serving time for that conviction while they face trial on other charges. He also termed it a "subversion" of federal statutes.

"No grounds have been set forth," DiScenza told Breen. "An appeal bond would be inappropriate. A delay in reporting would be unfair."

Brooks told Breen that ordering Ford to report without at least a review of the transcript would amount to denying Ford effective legal counsel.

"What would be treating him differently would be locking him up without a transcript," Brooks said. "Why is there this rush to get Mr. Ford locked up?"

Mountain of troubles

The Nashville trial, which involves allegations of illegal kickbacks to Ford from TennCare contractors, is scheduled to begin Nov. 6. TennCare is Tennessee's substitute for Medicaid.

Prosecutors claim Ford took money to sell his legislative influence to the contractors. Ford claims he was acting as a paid consultant legally and separately from his legislative duties.

Ford's attorney in the Nashville case, Isaiah Gant, told Breen the trial could take a month or two. For that reason, Breen said he might delay Ford's report date to prison until December. But an exact prison report date will depend on whether the Nashville trial starts on time and a Nov. 28 hearing before Breen on any motion for bond that Brooks might file.

Gant said he plans to ask again for a delay in the start of the trial but expects the request to be denied.

"It is a rather complicated case. There's an overlap between the case in Nashville and the case here in West Tennessee," he said after the hearing. "Certainly our ability to prepare our case and work with the client would be substantially defeated if we had to travel back and forth between Nashville and Anthony, Texas."

In court, DiScenza told Breen that Ford has the option of reporting and beginning to serve his prison time at a federal prison in or near Nashville during the trial.

Gant acknowledged the option. "But even that would impede the kind of access that we have to him now."

Ford had no comment as he left the Federal Building following the one-hour hearing.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064