Ford's federal prison sentence delayed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andrew Douglas

Ford's federal prison sentence delayed

A federal judge in Memphis ruled Wednesday to delay John Ford's 66-month prison sentence for bribery.

Ford was ordered to return to court on February 28 for a status hearing.  At that time, Ford's attorney and prosecutors will meet to decide whether or not he will report to prison during his federal trial in Nashville.

In the meantime, Ford will remain out of prison on bond.

Ford, 65, is scheduled for trial in Nashville in March on charges of taking $800,000 in improper payments from state contractors while he was in the Tennessee Senate.

Ford contends in a petition before Breen that defending himself against the Nashville charges will be more difficult, as well as more costly to the taxpayers, if he is in prison.

He also argues that his youngest children, ages 15, 14, 13 and 2, would have no one to care for them since ex-wife Tamara Mitchell-Ford is serving a jail sentence of 11 months and 29 days for drunken driving.

Ford said his prison term of 66 months was inaccurately calculated according to federal sentencing guidelines.

It was based in part, Ford said, on an accusation of "obstruction of justice" after he was acquitted of that charge at trial.

Ford also said a series of payoffs he was convicted of taking from undercover FBI agents posing as crooked businessmen should have been considered as a single bribe, which would have reduced his sentence.

A favorable ruling on appeal, he said, could cut his prison term to "less than three years."

In arguing against Ford's request, prosecutors said his success on appeal is unlikely and he can be moved to a prison near Nashville while his trial is under way.

Ford, a leading member of a large, politically active family in Memphis, spent more than 30 years in the Senate before resigning in 2005 shortly after his indictment.

His minor children, he said, are being cared for temporarily "by an elderly family friend" and he has been "unable to find an immediate family member who could take on the burden of caring for his children."

When the Tennessee Waltz scandal broke, Ford owned two suburban residences with combined appraisals of almost $900,000, and he maintained separate households with his ex-wife and a longtime companion with whom he also has children.

"The defendant is presently living in a two-bedroom apartment and is arranging for suitable quarters for himself and his four minor children ... should the court see fit to grant his request" to delay the prison sentence, Ford's petition said.

Ford was the most prominent of five former state lawmakers convicted of taking Tennessee Waltz bribes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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