Monday, May 19, 2008

Edmund Ford Takes the Witness Stand

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Edmund Ford boldly took the witness stand Monday and said several times that he never took bribes from lobbyist Joe Cooper for his influence on the Memphis City Council.

Ford was questioned for about an hour by his attorney, Michael Scholl, and was in the middle of being cross-examined by prosecutor Larry Laurenzi when the trial took a lunch break.

Scholl first asked Ford if he was angry.

"A little upset," Ford said. "Kind of angry. Being here in court for something I did not do."

Ford said the four cash payments totaling $8,900 that jurors have seen on videotape were for legitimate car payments and a down payment on a loan for a new funeral home. The prosecution contends they were bribes for Ford’s assistance on a billboard project on Steve Road.

Ford said that anyone who knows him knows "if you ever tried to bribe me the whole world would know."

Ford said Cooper "is not telling the truth." He said when he first met Cooper 15 years ago he "thought he was a millionaire." Cooper, who likely falls quite a bit short of that, formerly worked for wealthy billboard baron William B. Tanner but was a car salesman for Bud Davis Cadillac in 2006 when the payments were made.

Laurenzi grilled Ford about his relationship with developer Rusty Hyneman, who cosigned the car lease. Ford insisted he thought he was purchasing the car, not leasing it, but Laurenzi produced documents showing it to be a lease, with monthly payments due of $918. The car, a Cadillac, was valued at $64,800.

Laurenzi clearly intends to replay the payoff tapes for the jury and get Ford to explain each one.

Many criminal defendants do not testify, including Ford's brother, former state senator John Ford, who was convicted on Tennessee Waltz charges last year.

Edmund Ford was feisty at times. "I cannot answer that question because you are not asking it correctly, sir," he told Laurenzi in one exchange.

More to come.

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