Willis movie could help Ford defense

Did John Ford think he was just acting in a movie when he walked into the E-Cycle office and took bribe money?  It's a possible defense strategy and it's all because of a movie you learned about first on Action News 5.

Prosecutors say their undercover video shows former state senator John Ford on the take in the office of the government's fake company called E-Cycle.

A tree in the corner and a picture on the wall match those found in another video, this one a clip from a movie called "Street Life."

It was made during the same period, by the government's key witness, undercover informant - and aspiring filmmaker - Tim Willis.  It also features an elected official.  Shelby County Circuit Court Judge D'Army Bailey, acting the role of a federal agent.

Now, some defense attorneys say the movie may be John Ford's best defense.

"It could go far in Senator Ford's defense in that 'hey, I was acting in a movie' and then lo and behold, Willis was working on a movie.  So I think it could help Senator Ford," says Attorney Leslie Ballin, who represents a Waltz defendant, convicted bagman Barry Myers.

He says Ford could claim - in court - that he thought he was just making a film.  "If that was Mr. Ford's defense, that is that this was a script, that Willis told him I want you to come in and pretend you're taking a bribe and he goes and does that and then Willis does a flip on him and has the FBI really watching, then it could be subject to cross-examination."

Ford's attorney Mike Scholl says his team has been aware of the Willis movie since before Ford's arraignment last year.  "Anything that takes place, especially in what appears to be an FBI office or what appears to be an office or part of this, is of interest to us."

And - he says - the movie could be evidence at trial.

At the end of Willis' movie, a graphic pops up that says he's working on two other films, one of them, a political blockbuster called "the Tennessee Waltz."  Leslie Ballin says the defense could use that as proof, as well.

The U-S attorney's office doesn't comment on pending cases.  But, Ballin also says the government will need to answer questions about Willis' use of the E-Cycle office for personal business.