Sen. John Ford resigns amid controversy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Sen. John Ford resigns amid controversy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Powerful state Sen. John Ford, who is

charged with bribery and threatening witnesses in a federal

corruption case, has resigned from the Tennessee Senate, according

to a letter read Saturday by the lieutenant governor.

"I hereby resign from the state Senate. I plan to spend the

rest of my time with my family clearing my name," Ford wrote in a

letter that Lt. Gov. John Wilder read to the Senate.

Ford, a member of the Senate for more than 30 years, was

arrested Thursday as part of a two-year FBI sting operation

nicknamed "Tennessee Waltz." He is charged along with four other

current and former state lawmakers with taking payoffs, but he is

the only one accused of threatening to kill witnesses.

Friday in a Memphis courtroom, prosecutors played video they

said showed the lawmaker watching an undercover agent count out a

$10,000 payoff and an audiotape of him threatening to shoot a

potential witness.

According to the indictments, the lawmakers and two other men

took $92,000 to usher bills through the Legislature for a phony

company the FBI created called E-Cycle Management. Ford is accused

of taking $55,000 between August and April from the sham company.

Republican Senate leader Ron Ramsey said the Ethics Committee he

chairs was getting ready to file a six-court charge against Ford

for violating Senate rules stemming from a separate investigation.

Ford was accused of working as a paid consultant for a state

contractor, TennCare provider Doral Dental.

"I believe we would have had the votes to remove Senator Ford

from office," Ramsey said.

Ford began his public career in the 1970s when he, his brother

Harold and other family members began building a powerful political

organization in Memphis. Harold Ford beat a white incumbent in 1974

to become Tennessee's first black congressman. That same election

sent John Ford to the state Senate and brother Emmett Ford to the

Tennessee House.

Harold Ford kept his congressional seat for 22 years. When he

retired in 1996, he turned the seat over to his son, Harold Ford

Jr., who on Wednesday announced he had officially launched his

campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Emmett Ford gave up his House seat after he was convicted of

insurance fraud.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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