John Ford objects to government's planned use of trial videos

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Former state Sen. John Ford complained Tuesday that the government is overreaching with its plans to show a trial jury videos of him taking what are described as payoffs.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday for Ford's trial on federal bribery and extortion charges.

The trial could last up to a month, and prosecutors are expected to play secretly recorded audio and video tapes of Ford meeting with undercover agents posing as crooked businessman.

In a pretrial petition, Ford says prosecutors plan to show videos of one such meeting from different angles, from the side and from above. Shots from one angle are enough, Ford said, accusing the government of trying to prejudice the trial jury by presenting the same evidence more than once.

Prosecutors say the video recorded in 2004 shows Ford, who was then in the Senate, taking money he thought was from a company called E-Cycle Management.

Showing the meeting from two angles better sets the scene, the government said in an answer to Ford's petition, and the view from above "presents a clearer image of the cash."

Ford also objected to his jury hearing audio and video tapes of him talking about business deals unrelated to the charges accusing him of taking $55,000 to help E-Cycle get favorable legislation passed in Nashville.

Ford is also under federal indictment in Nashville, charged with taking illegal payoffs from contractors with the state's TennCare medical insurance program.

TennCare contracts "are irrelevant to the issues in this trial," Ford said. Prosecutors disagreed, saying Ford talked about the TennCare contracts to show the agents he thought were E-Cycle representatives "the amount of money paid to him by these companies and their satisfaction with his abilities."

E-Cycle was a fake company set up by the FBI for an undercover investigation called Tennessee Waltz. Ford, a Memphis Democrat, is one of five former or current state lawmakers charged with bribery and extortion in the investigation.

Still awaiting trial are Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga and former Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis. Former Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland, pleaded guilty to bribery charges and spent nine months in prison.

Former Sen. Roscoe Dixon, D-Memphis, was convicted at trial and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)