United States Attorney David Kustoff said the government got what it wanted in the John Ford trial.
"The bottom line is, as of today John Ford is a convicted felon," said Kustoff at a news conference in the federal building.
Jurors found Ford guilty of bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The former senator was found not guilty on three counts of threatening undercover FBI agent L. C. McNiel and undercover informant Tim Willis, but Kustoff shrugged off a suggestion that the jury found them to not be credible witnesses.
"The jury found enough credibility in what we put on to convict Mr. Ford," said Kustoff.
Kustoff said the government has not decided whether to retry Ford on the first count of the five-count indictment. The extortion count on which jurors deadlocked carries the most severe punishment, a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Tim DiScenza and Lorraine Craig, who prosecuted the case did not answer questions. Kustoff said all Tennessee Waltz cases are equally important because they send the same message the public corruption will not be tolerated.
Defense attorney Michael Scholl said "we are going to keep fighting" and that Ford would appeal. Acceptance of guilt, or lack thereof, has made a big difference in the sentences handed out to previously convicted Tennessee Waltz defendants Roscoe Dixon and Michael Hooks.
Ford did not speak with reporters after the verdict was announced. Ford is under a separate federal indictment in Nashville. Kustoff said it would be up to prosecutors in Nashville to decide what to do about that case.
Following is a formal statement from U.S. Attorney Kustoff:
Almost two years ago, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee announced indictments against state and local government officials whom were alleged to have violated the duties and responsibilities entrusted to them by the public. The investigation into public corruption in the Tennessee Legislature and local governments, now known as Tennessee Waltz, culminated with the indictments of a number of public officials, including then Tennessee State Senator John Ford. When my predecessor as U.S. Attorney, Terry Harris, announced these indictments and disclosed the alleged public corruption, he told the public that they have a right to know that their government is not for sale."
Without a doubt, people have a right to expect that public representatives in their official capacity act truthfully, openly and overtly--all in the best interests of the people whom they serve. People want to be able to trust their government to do the right things for the right reasons. Quite simply, the public wants and should expect honest government.
We are pleased with the jury's verdict in the United States v. John Ford. Over the course of the past two and a half weeks, the jury has listened carefully and considerately to all of the proof presented at trial, including the testimony of the witnesses as well as the video and audio recordings. There were over 200 exhibits introduced in this trial. The jury found unanimously, beyond a reasonable doubt, as to count 2 that John Ford violated the essential and fundamental public trust that had been bestowed to him by the people of the State of Tennessee. We respect the jury's verdict in all respects.
The bottom line of Operation Tennessee Waltz is simple--Law enforcement in West Tennessee will aggressively pursue government officials who violate the public trust. The majority of public officials are honest folks who act in the best interests of the people. Hopefully, public corruption investigations like Tennessee Waltz and Main Street Sweeper will demonstrate to those other public officials that law enforcement will aggressively pursue and investigate those who breach the public trust.
There are a number of individuals who have worked very hard on this matter that I want to recognize. I want to commend Assistant United States Attorneys Tim DiScenza and Lorraine Craig for their exemplarily work on this case as well as Mark Erskine, Litigation Support Specialist for the US Attorney's Office.
I also want to thank the Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation My Harrison for her leadership during Operation Tennessee Waltz.
Finally, I want to recognize Special Agents Brian Burns and Mark Jackson from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.