Ford Trial: Whose Timing is Off? 

BY JACKSON BAKER | APR 23, 2007

As testimony in the Ford trial resumed Monday, FBI witness Mark Jackson presented a "timeline" of the events which, inexorably by the government's account, led former state Senator Ford into criminal conduct on behalf of the bogus electronics firm E-Cycle.

Not so, countered defense attorney Mike Scholl, whose cross-examination seemed designed to show suspicious gaps in the timeline between April and July of 2004.

In between, as Scholl led Jackson to acknowledge, were conversations between Ford and government agents on matters unrelated to E-Cycle, as well as conversations between the FBI principals themselves concerning the desirability of making contact with Ford.

Specifically, undercover informant Tim Willis was asked by FBI agent Joe Carroll to attend Ford's birthday party in May, and agent "L.C. McNeil" (the name is a pseudonym) later implored Ford to attend a Black Film Festival in July '04 that segued into an E-Cycle-sponsored leisure event.

Scholl noted some dialogue that he suggested amounted to efforts to rope Ford into illegal complicity with E-Cycle (Jackson maintained, as the government had before, that the comments were harmless and unrelated to the sting)

Neiher point of view on the matter -- the government's nor the defense's -- was new, since the difference of opinion (or of interpretation) had received ample attention earlier in the trial.

What was new in the trial was the presentation in court of a much-discussed $50,000 Rolex watch that the government insists was given to Ford by developer Rusty Hyneman in return for specific legislative favors. It has been brought into evidence in this trial to buttress the government's claim that it had properly "predicated" Ford as a suspect -- i.e., demonstrated his disposition to illegal activity.

When the watch was presented in a preliminary hearing earlier this year, it had somehow lost proper time from the point that it was taken off Ford's wrist in May 2005 when he was arrested in Nashville. That made it a handy trope of sorts for the argument between the two sides Monday over the timing and meaning of conversation and events.

When court adjourned for lunch, presiding judge Daniel Breen noted that the expensive watch should be secured.

As part of the aftermath to that statement, members of the two teams began engaging in light-hearted banter. For what was almost surely the first time since the trial began two weeks ago, Ford took part in such conversation, trading jokes back and forth with FBI agents Jackson and Brian Burns, evidently about the watch.

That bit of activity may or may not indicate something about subdued levels of tension on Ford's part. When Jackson leaves the stand, the defense will begin presenting its own case, presumably Monday afternoon.

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