Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jury Begins Deliberations in Edmund Ford Trial

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"The tapes are not married to anybody. The tapes do not have a plea agreement."

With those words, federal prosecutor Larry Laurenzi wrapped up the government's case Tuesday against former City Councilman Edmund Ford, whose fate is now in the hands of the seven women and five men on the jury.

During six days of testimony, prosecutors presented videotapes of four payments from undercover informant Joe Cooper to Ford. Laurenzi said Cooper was merely "a tape recorder" and his criminal record and desire to cut a deal with prosecutors should not distract jurors.

"Joe Cooper is not the proof," he said.

Laurenzi pointed out that Ford and Cooper get right down to business with a minimum of small talk - and without the profane language of many of the Tennessee Waltz tapes featuring Ford's brother, former state senator John Ford.

"He (Edmund Ford) had to accept the money knowing that it was given to him for his political influence," Laurenzi said. "It wasn't the FBI or (FBI Agent) Dan Netemeyer, it was greed. It was just greed."

Michael Scholl, Ford's attorney, said "this whole case is about manipulation" and jurors were shown only "snippets" of tapes cast in the most incriminating light.

"It should be shocking to watch how you can take little pieces of a conversation and set up anybody," Scholl said.

However, he also argued that Ford was the victim of entrapment, which seemed to concede that he had taken the money as the tapes show.

Scholl reminded jurors that Ford and his wife Myrna, who testified in the trial, are a "mom and pop operation" in the family funeral home.

"Not only do you have to believe that Mr. Ford is lying, you've got to believe that his wife got up here and lied, too," he said.

In his instructions to the jury, U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays told jurors they must not be influenced by sympathy.

Jurors were given detailed instructions about entrapment. Federal courts have ruled that a bribe need not be explicitly stated as a "quid pro quo." The defendant must know that the payment is made in return for official acts, but a certain amount of subtlety is acceptable. The Ford videotapes show him taking $100 bills as Cooper and Ford discuss pending decisions of the City Council or other official actions.

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