Friday, April 20, 2007

Feds Still Presenting Case Friday in Week Two of Ford Trial

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM

BY JOHN BRANSTON  | APR 20, 2007

Jurors got a civics lesson Friday as prosecutors began wrapping up their case against former senator John Ford at the end of the second week of the trial in U.S. District Court.

Meanwhile, Ford’s attorney, Michael Scholl, was laying the groundwork for a “consultant defense” next week that will also be important if and when Ford is tried in Nashville on more corruption charges in a different federal case.

Most of Friday’s testimony was far less dramatic than the guns-and-tapes action earlier in the week. Prosecution witness Russell Humphrey, the clerk of court for the Tennessee Senate, explained the legislative process and the actions that would have been necessary for E-Cycle Management’s pet legislation to become law. Jurors heard an audiotape of Ford introducing the bill in committee and members voting to approve it. The FBI made sure the bill was scuttled before it could be voted on by the entire Senate, however. In the afternoon session jurors heard a long explanation from an official with the General Services division of what the costs would have been had the bill gone through.

As part of its sting operation, FBI agents posing as E-Cycle executives paid Ford $55,000 to introduce, amend, then withdraw the bill.

Also Friday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen ruled that prosecutors may use a chart and timeline when they question their final witness to help summarize their case.

In his cross-examination of Humphrey, Scholl focused on Ford’s consulting work. Like Roscoe Dixon and Kathryn Bowers, who were also indicted in Tennessee Waltz, Ford listed his occupation as “consultant” in the 2005-2006 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book. He also added “consultant” to his 2005 financial interest statement along with funerals, insurance, and real estate as a source of income.

“There is nothing illegal about a senator being a consultant is there?” Scholl asked Humphrey, who replied, “correct.”

Earlier this week, assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza asked undercover FBI agent L.C. McNeil a series of questions aimed at refuting suggestions by the defense that Ford was being paid for anything related to movies, music, or office decorating.

Ford’s consulting work for United American Health Care and Doral Dental is at the heart of the indictment filed against him by federal prosecutors in Nashville in December of 2006. That case is set for trial in May but will obviously be pushed back.

The cases are separate, but the math favors the government. To keep his liberty, Ford must win twice. To send him to prison, the government only has to win once.

The consultant defense appears to be one of two prongs of Scholl’s strategy along with the argument that Ford was targeted without predication and entrapped by overzealous prosecutors who were out to get him.

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