The story of how former State Senator John Ford became entangled in a complicated criminal fantasy, created and executed by two young FBI agents, is being plotted in painstaking detail by prosecutors who showed disc after disc of surreptitiously recorded conversations between undercover agents and Ford.
The fourth day of John Ford's public corruption trial featured testimony from a retired FBI agent and a current FBI agent, still undercover. And it featured hours of primarily audio-taped recordings outlining how Ford was introduced to the Tennessee Waltz sting and how he behaved as his role grew.
Joseph Carroll - who used the name Joe Carson and claimed to be the President and CEO of E-Cycle - spent the morning following prosecutor Lorraine Craig down the timeline, explaining the significance of each statement heard on tape.
Carroll's testimony exposed jurors to the first audio recordings thus far featured at this trial. The first conversation, a recording between Ford, Carroll and convicted Waltz defendant Charles Love featured Ford bragging about his influence in the legislature and his relationship with weathy Memphis developer Rusty Hyneman.
A second tape, an audio recording of Carroll and Ford at lunch in Nashville, also features Ford bragging about his influence and about the roles played by other elected officials.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Mike Scholl asked Carroll questions about the cost of his contract, the cost of a yacht used to wine and dine some lawmakers and about why recordings aboard the yacht have not been shared as evidence. There is no indication recordings were actually made aboard the yacht.
The FBI undercover agent who played the role of Carroll's business partner and vice-president of E-Cycle began his testimony after lunch, answering questions from prosecutor Tim DiScenza. For the purpose of trial, he used his undercover name - L.C. McNeil - the same name he used during the Waltz trial.
McNeil explained his extensive background with undercover investigations and the role he played.
As the agent who dealt most directly with Ford, he is a critical witness.
He told prosecutors that Ford was never an initial target and that before a critical dinner meeting at Morton's Steakhouse in Nashville - coordinated by then-State Representative Kathryn Bowers - he hadn't been aware of Ford at all.
Most interestingly - particularly as Scholl had indicated it would be part of his defense - DiScenza asked McNeil a multitude of questions about a gathering in Miami, a party aboard an FBI-rented yacht and the beginning of many conversations about Ford's willingness to take bribes.
Ford was in Miami in July of 2004 to join McNeil and others at the African-American Film Festival. While there, McNeil invited him aboard a yacht the FBI had seized from a drug cartel. The yacht, for the purposes of the sting, belonged to E-Cycle President Joe Carson.
According to McNeil, Ford had been hesitant about going out on the boat; He was scared of water. So, instead the group took a short boat ride and agreed to go to a club together.
Several women, Memphis friends of informant Tim Willis who were also on the boat, accompanied them and Michael Hooks Jr., who was apparently also there for the film festival.
No recordings were made - or played - during that night.
In other tape-recorded conversations however, captured during a trip to the airport from Ford's Miami hotel the next day, Ford can be heard boasting of agreements he had with other companies, in particular a Detroit company, which - he said - made regular monthly payments to him.
"I always need me a little expense money on the front end," Ford says on the tape.
Ford also can be heard disparaging the ability of friend, former Senator and current convict Roscoe Dixon to move legislation through Nashville.
"He wouldn't know how to do s--t," said Ford.
"He's a good friend of mine, but I took two or three of his bills. He couldn't get em passed. I passed both the motherf***ers," Ford can be heard saying.
The jury endured hours of similar conversations and watched video clips of two separate meetings in the Memphis office for E-Cycle management, when John Ford is paid money. In one instance, he's given $10,000. In another, he's given $5,000.
During the latter clip, Ford and McNeil review a draft of legislation, line by line that Ford had promised to sponsor.
Court will reconvene at 9:30 Friday morning, when the prosecution will finish questioning McNeil.