DA recuses self in commissioner’s assault trial

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A special prosecutor will be appointed to handle the case of a county commissioner accused of beating his girlfriend.

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office recused itself from the prosecution of Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford.

Dressed in a suit and not saying a word, Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford made his first court appearance on Tuesday with his attorney Coleman Garrett by his side.

"My client is not guilty," Garrett said.

The appearance comes less than 24 hours after he posted his $15,000 bond and less than two days after the alleged incident that now has Ford facing aggravated assault and false imprisonment charges.

Now, Ford will wear a GPS monitor on his ankle as part of his bond conditions.

"We have a wonderful criminal justice system," Garrett said. "We allow it to take its course, we'll be able to get to the bottom of this."

Memphis Police Department said Ford, 32, physically assaulted and choked his 43-year-old girlfriend following an argument at Church's Chicken on Poplar Avenue in the Medical District.

The police report says he hit her in the face, temporarily blinding her. She then pulled into a Church's Chicken parking lot along Poplar and Pauline.

The woman told investigators she tried to get out of the car but Ford kept punching her, pulling her hair and strangling her. Police finally arrived and arrested Ford.

Ford was elected to the board of commissioners in 2010 and serves over District 9. He served as commission chairman in 2014 and 2015. He also ran for Memphis mayor, but withdrew before the election.

If convicted, he could lose his seat on the county commission.

"I'm confident Mr. Ford will be okay," Garrett said.

Ford is due back in court for a bond hearing on Tuesday, May 2.

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