Tennessee Waltz tapes played in Ford's 2nd trial - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee Waltz tapes played in Ford's 2nd trial

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Prosecutors rested their case Monday in the federal corruption trial against former state Sen. John Ford after presenting conversations recorded during a previous, unrelated investigation.

The Memphis Democrat is accused of taking more than $800,000 from TennCare contractors Doral Dental Services, of Mequon, Wis., and OmniCare Health Plan Inc., of Memphis, to advance the interests of those companies in the legislature. Ford, 66, has maintained that he was being paid for work outside the state.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully tried to suppress wiretap evidence obtained by the FBI during the Tennessee Waltz sting operation. Ford was one of five former lawmakers convicted in that case. He is currently serving a 5 1/2 year prison sentence.

On Monday, prosecutors played for the jury a March 2005 phone conversation between Ford and former OmniCare CEO Osbie Howard. Howard can be heard telling Ford the government has subpoenaed his 2002 and 2003 business records and notes.

"I hope you ain't got no damn notes," Ford tells Howard.

Prosecutors also played recorded conversations Ford had with an undercover FBI agent in which he brags about deals he made with contractors for TennCare.

In the recordings, Ford says he "put together the deal" that led to Doral's contract with his consulting company, Managed Care Services Group. Ford also says he traveled first-class while working as a consultant and stayed in hotels like The Ritz-Carlton.

The jury also heard a phone conversation that took place shortly after Ford's business dealings with TennCare contractors became public in which Ford's brother, former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr., tells him not to trust lawyers.

Harold Ford Sr. alludes to his own previous legal troubles in the conversation. He was acquitted of federal bank fraud charges in 1993. He then tells John Ford that he should have taken his advice and resigned from the Senate.

Prosecutors also questioned employees from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. They testified that Ford spoke at Senate committee meetings many times about Doral and OmniCare, now called UAHC of Tennessee, without ever disclosing his financial ties to the companies. Such disclosure is required by law.

When questioned by Ford's attorney, Isaiah "Skip" Gant, those employees said no other lawmakers at those meetings came forward. However, it was unclear whether other lawmakers had any ties to the companies.

Also on Monday, U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell ruled the government does not have to grant immunity to a witness deemed crucial to Ford's defense.

Last week, Gant asked the judge to force the government to grant immunity to former Doral CEO Craig Kasten in exchange for his testimony. Gant said Kasten made statements that supported Ford's defense in a previous deposition. However, Kasten will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself unless he's granted immunity.

Federal prosecutors would not say publicly whether Kasten is under investigation or whether they plan to charge the Doral Dental co-founder. Those answers were included in a sealed response filed by the government.


(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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