A jury in Memphis on Wednesday acquitted a former city councilman of bribery and extortion despite undercover videos showing him taking money from an FBI informant.
Former councilman Edmund Ford, 52, was acquitted on all six charges. Ford and a group of jubilant supporters smiled and clapped as they left the courtroom.
Ford was charged with taking almost $9,000 in payoffs from a former local government lobbyist in exchange for his council votes on a real estate and billboard project.
"A lot of things they were saying was not the truth," Ford said. "That's why I had to get on the stand and defend my honor."
Former lobbyist Joe Cooper, who is awaiting sentencing on an unrelated money laundering conviction, worked with the FBI as an informant and made secret videotapes of meetings with Ford. The jury watched clips showing Cooper hand cash to Ford while soliciting his council votes.
"I hold no grudges on anyone, and Mr. Cooper, he just have to deal with his own situation," Ford said.
Ford testified that Cooper was helping him arrange a business loan and the cash handouts were advances on that transaction. Ford denied doing anything illegal for the money. Defense lawyer Michael Scholl accused Cooper of lying about Ford in hopes of avoiding a long prison sentence.
"Mr. Ford didn't take a bribe," Scholl said. "He told the truth from the beginning."
Cooper, a former car salesman, has pleaded guilty to helping drug dealers acquire luxury cars.
Ford was elected to the council in 1999 and did not run for re-election last year. He is a member of one of the city's most politically active families.
Two of his brothers are former 30-year state Sen. John Ford, who is serving a federal prison sentence on an unrelated bribery conviction, and former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Sr., who represented Memphis in Congress for 22 years.
One of his nephews is former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., who ran a close but unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in 2006. Edmund Ford's son, Edmund Ford Jr., succeeded him on the city council.