Former Tennessee state senator's corruption trial set to begin

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - As one of Tennessee's most powerful state senators, John Ford bragged that he would have little trouble getting a new law passed to benefit a computer recycling company.

But he ran into an unexpected snag when the company turned out to be a phony operation set up by the FBI, and he was charged with bribery, extortion and threatening a government witness.

Jury selection is set for Monday in Ford's trial, which was expected to be the best courtroom show so far in the FBI's statewide corruption probe, code-named Tennessee Waltz after one of the official state songs.

"You are talking to the guy who makes the deals," the indictment quotes Ford, who was speaking to an FBI agent posing as a dishonest businessman seeking legislative favors.

Ford, 64, is one of five current or former state lawmakers charged in the Tennessee Waltz investigation. He is accused of taking $55,000 in bribes from E-Cycle Management, which was allegedly in the business of buying and reselling used government computers.

The jury in U.S. District Court will hear several secretly recorded audio tapes of Ford's conversations with undercover agents and see at least two video clips of him stuffing his pockets with cash.

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