Watching the Evidence 

Judge hears argument against including Rolex in John Ford's federal trial.

The diamond-studded Rolex is ticking away the days until former state senator John Ford's federal trial for bribery.

Judge Daniel Breen heard arguments for and against the admission of Ford's Rolex wristwatch as evidence in the federal government's bribery case against Ford in a motion hearing Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court.

The watch is an extremely rare model, with a meteorite face encircled in diamonds. Rolex values the piece at $46,800. Ford defense attorney Michael Scholl inspected the watch in court and gave Ford another look at it.

Ford openly discussed the watch during a taped conversation with undercover FBI agents during Operation Tennessee Waltz. In the conversation, Ford revealed that developer Rusty Hyneman gave him the watch after Ford saved Hyneman $1.3 million with a "big favor." Ford estimated the value of the watch at $50,000 on the tape, claiming, "I paid zero."

Scholl possibly previewed his defense strategy for the trial, as he focused on the boasting that his client and undercover agents engaged in during their transactions, suggesting that Ford merely talked big to impress his company.

Scholl played the court a tape of an undercover FBI agent on the case encouraging another to "have some fun [with Ford], and if we catch him, we catch him."

The defense also played tape of Ford explaining his purchase of a Rolex to one of the agents, which calls the veracity of Ford's "I paid zero" claim into question.

Scholl similarly depicted his client's claim of having saved Hyneman over a million dollars in state levied fines as another case of willful inflation.

FBI agents arrested Ford on May 28, 2005, in Nashville, and seized the watch as evidence. Scholl initially charged that the confiscation was illegal.

"This is irrelevant to the trial," Scholl commented, adding, "This is designed to confuse the jury from the real issue."

The real issue is the indictment, and Scholl stated that "nothing in the indictment alleges anything with the watch."

The pre-trial hearing marks the final court action prior to Ford's trial, scheduled to commence April 9th.

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