Ford says he's innocent as prosecutors try to keep him in jail - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ford says he's innocent as prosecutors try to keep him in jail

As he walked into a federal courthouse Tuesday, former state Sen. John Ford told reporters the charges against him and other Tennessee lawmakers were false. "We're innocent ... and we will fight these matters in a proper court of law," he said. Ford, who resigned his Senate seat Saturday, was back in court because prosecutors want to keep him in jail until his trial on charges of corruption and threatening witnesses. His initial court appearance was Friday when a U.S. magistrate denied the government's request to keep Ford in jail, instead placing him on house arrest under a $20,000 bond. Prosecutors tried again Tuesday by showing U.S. Judge Daniel Breen the same video footage of Ford watching a man identified as an FBI agent count out $10,000 in cash, and an audio tape that authorities say is Ford threatening to shoot a potential witness. Ford is charged with taking $55,000 in payoffs from undercover agents in a government sting called "Tennessee Waltz." The FBI set up a bogus electronics company named E-Cycle Management Inc. that sought state legislation favorable to the company. The indictment says Ford and the others were paid to usher the company's bills through the Legislature. Ford also is charged with threatening potential witnesses, and prosecutors have argued he is too dangerous not to be in custody. His co-defendants have been freed without bond to await trial. The government says Ford made several threats when he began to grow suspicious of E-Cycle and its representatives. On one scratchy audiotape the government says was made by an informant, a man identified as Ford talks about FBI "shell companies." He warns the informant not to work against him, adding, "I got a gun. I'll just shoot you dead." Defense attorney Michael Scholl said last week that Ford was joking with people he thought were his friends and intended no serious threats. He called several character witnesses Tuesday, including Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton, who said Ford was boastful and talks tougher than he really is. "I would never think he would shoot someone," Bolton said. Ford said Tuesday that his Senate resignation on the last day of the session had nothing to do with the corruption charges. He said he began planning his resignation after the Legislature passed measures making it illegal for lawmakers to work as paid consultants. "I made up my mind then it was time to go," Ford said. "I didn't need to resign from the Senate because of these charges." Also charged are Democratic Sens. Kathryn Bowers and Ward Crutchfield, Republican Rep. Chris Newton and former state Sen. Roscoe Dixon, a Democrat. Charles Love, a lobbyist from Chattanooga, and Barry Myers, a Memphis resident, are also charged in the case. They are described by the government as "bagmen" for the payoffs.

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

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