Defense grills prosecution's key witness in Edmund Ford trial - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Anna Marie Hartman

Defense grills prosecution's key witness in Edmund Ford trial

Defense attorney's tried to discredit the prosecution's key witness Thursday in the federal bribery trial of former Memphis City Council member Edmund Ford.

Ford was behind on his vehicle's lease and the rent on his funeral home when Joe Cooper went undercover for the FBI in 2006 and started giving him money. 

In August of 2006, FBI surveillance tapes show Cooper giving Ford $3,000 to help him get caught up on the lease payments on his car. 

"You did give those car payments didn't you?" Cooper asks Ford on one of the tapes. "Let me give you a couple more, cause you want to keep those a head of time."

Thursday, defense attorneys argued that Cooper never says the money is incentive for Ford to influence the vote on a billboard and development ordinance pending in the city council.  It wasn't until later in the meeting that Ford and Cooper begin to discuss the measure, and that's when Ford says he can get the votes.

"I'll drum you up seven, or I'll make somebody walk out," Ford says on the tape.

In a subsequent meeting Cooper, says he may be able to arrange for a private loan for Ford to purchase the property where his funeral home is located.

Cooper agreed to cooperate with federal investigators after he was indicted on money laundering charges.  He told FBI agents that he might be able to get Ford to take bribes in exchange for support on a billboard measure pending in the council.   But Cooper admitted in court Thursday that he and Ford exchanged many favors over the years, and Ford never asked for or accepted any money until the FBI sent Cooper undercover. 

Ford's defense attorney, Mike Scholl, grilled Cooper for hours Thursday.  Scholl was effective in his attempt to discredit the prosecutions star witness by pointing out that Cooper had some shady business dealings in the past. 

At one point Cooper said on the stand, that lying to get what you want is the American way.

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