Tuesday, August 28, 2007

John Ford Sentencing: He "Used and Abused" His Power

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen sentenced John Ford Tuesday to 66 months in prison, which means the senator, now 65, will be at least 71 when he is a free man.

Breen said the sentencing guideline range for Ford's bribery conviction was 78-97 months. The judge said Ford "used and abused" his power. He was "a person of greed and avarice but also a person who assisted others." His conduct "sends a very unfortunate message to those persons who were represented by Mr. Ford," especially young people. The damning videotapes "reflect an arrogance that belies his concern for his constituents." The whole thing was "a tragedy on many levels."

Adding up all of that, and using his own judicial discretion, Breen got to 66 months, or slightly more than the sentence another federal judge gave Tennessee Waltz defendant Roscoe Dixon.

Ford was stoic in the courtroom but appeared tearful on the elevator as he left the courthouse with his family. Things could get worse for Ford, who faces separate federal charges in Nashville and has a November 6th trial date. But for the time being, Ford and his friends and family appear to have helped his cause somewhat with an emotional appeal for leniency on Monday, day one of a rare two-day sentencing hearing.

Ford gave a good account of himself and revealed a side rarely seen by reporters and most members of the public. Speaking to Breen in a soft voice that sometimes cracked, Ford asked for leniency for himself and his dependent children and said he was "ashamed" of the way he behaved on the secretly recorded tapes that convicted him.

He told Breen, "I accept the jury verdict and I take full, total, and complete responsibility for my actions." He apologized to the court, his family and friends, his constituents, "and particularly to my children."

Prosecutor Tim DiScenza and defense attorney Michael Scholl spent several hours arguing over what factors should be weighed, and how heavily, in Ford's sentence. A much-publicized Rolex watch -- actually three watches, according to exhaustive courtroom explanations -- wound up having little or no relevance.

DiScenza bored in on Ford as a crooked lawmaker whose only sincere regret was getting caught and convicted. "We don’t hear about the betrayed trust of the people that voted for him or the trust of the young legislators who may have looked up to him as a role model," he said.

Thirteen friends and family members described Ford as a good father of 12 children, a supportive brother, and a "go-to" legislator.

"I couldn't have asked for a better father," said Autumn Ford Burnette, a physician. "I wanted to have people look up to me like they look up to him."

Joyce Ford Miller said her brother was a father figure to all the family children.

I'm not saying he hasn’t made some mistakes, but he's a good guy and a very good brother," she said.

Connie Matthews, the mother of two of Ford's children, pleaded with Breen "don't take him away." She said Ford is "a good man and an excellent father" despite his public reputation for philandering and not paying child support.

Friends said Ford's public portrayal is inaccurate because of his tendency to brag.

"On first impression you don't like him but when you get to know him you love him” said Frank Banks.

Other speakers for Ford included business associates Osbie Howard, Mabra Holeyfield, Rep. Ulysses Jones, and former legislator Alvin King. Ford's brothers Harold, Joe, and Edmund were not in the courtroom, nor was his nephew Harold Ford Jr. Joe Ford was presiding over the Shelby County Commission on Monday. Edmund Ford is also under federal indictment.


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