Defense in corruption trial of ex-Tenn. state senator rests after calling 3 witnesses

Mina Knox (Whut! Online)
Mina Knox (Whut! Online)

Associated Press Writer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The defense rested Tuesday in the trial of a former Tennessee state senator charged with corruption after calling just three witnesses.

Former Sen. John Ford, 64, did not take the stand in his federal trial on bribery and extortion charges.

In his summation for the jury, prosecutor Tim DiScenza rejected defense claims that the FBI went too far in setting up a fake company that offered money for changes in state law.

Corrupt officials and the people who bribe them do not talk to outsiders, DiScenza said, so investigators must pretend to be on the inside of payoff schemes.

"It's the only way they can be investigated," he said. "Who's going to stop them?"

Ford's lawyer was scheduled to make his closing argument on Wednesday.

Ford is one of five current or former state lawmakers charged in the federal sting operation known as Tennessee Waltz, which was built around a fake FBI company known as E-Cycle Management that offered money for legislative favors.

One of the three defense witnesses, Mina Knox, 26, testified that she was having a romantic affair with Ford and that she was with him on a trip to Miami in 2004, along with an undercover FBI agent.

The defense contends the FBI used that trip, which included a yacht party and fancy dinners, to set Ford up.

Knox, an aspiring actress and former cheerleader for the now-defunct XFL football league, said she met Ford on the FBI-owned yacht and spent the weekend with him in his Miami hotel room, which the government paid for.

Defense attorney Michael Scholl sought to use Knox's testimony to undermine the credibility of an undercover agent known as L.C. McNiel, a man who was the FBI's main contact with Ford.

Knox said McNiel partied with Ford in Miami and spent two nights alone in his hotel room with two different young women while on that trip.

But under cross-examination, Knox acknowledged that a statement she gave to the FBI made no mention of any such activity by McNiel.

Ford resigned from the Senate two days after he was indicted in May 2005.

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

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