John Ford Update: The Rolex and a Possible Change of Venue



Federal prosecutors say in a recent court filing that they would have no problem with a change of venue in the John Ford trial, set to begin February 5th in Memphis.

In a motion filed Friday and previously unreported, the government responds to a motion by Ford and his attorney asking for a delay because of extensive pretrial publicity.

“The appropriate remedy would be to move for a change of venue as this case can certainly be tried in another district close to the Western District of Tennessee,” the government’s motion says.

Prosecutors suggest Jackson, Mississippi, Knoxville, or Little Rock.

A status conference is scheduled for Wednesday, January 10th before U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen.

The venue was a big issue on the trial of Ford’s brother, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., in 1993. The government wanted to try the case in Knoxville but it was tried in Memphis, where the government lost anyway.

Memphis, of course, is the base of the Ford family’s political support. Picking a jury in Memphis would be an exceptionally careful process given that Harold Ford’s first trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.

John Ford was indicted on May 25, 2005 on charges that he took $55,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents working as representatives of a fictional company called E-Cycle Management.

The trial was previously set for October 2, 2006 before being reset for February.

On another matter, the government filed a response last week to Ford’s request that his Rolex watch be excluded from evidence at trial. FBI agents seized the watch, which Ford was wearing when he was arrested. The feds had secret tapes in which Ford bragged to an undercover agent that he got the watch, supposedly worth $50,000, from developer Rusty Hyneman for helping him on a state environmental regulations issue. “I saved him $1.3 million,” Ford says on tap

Unaware that he had been taped, Ford later told the FBI it was “ridiculous” to suggest he got the watch from Hyneman. He said anyone who suggested that would be sued by him for “slander” and “perjury.”

The government says the watch, which it had independently appraised for $40,000-$44,000, was legally seized because it was in plain view on Ford’s wrist and is relevant to the case because it shows his influence over state government officials. — John Branston

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