Prosecutors Expected To Start Calling Witnesses in Ford Case

Memphis (AP) -- Prosecutors are expected to start calling witnesses today in the public corruption trial of Former State Senator John Ford in Memphis.

The Memphis Democrat, once one of the most powerful members of the Tennessee Senate, is one of five current or former lawmakers charged in a statewide investigation code named Tennessee Waltz.

In Tuesday's opening statements, a federal prosecutor said Ford saw a great opportunity when he met undercover FBI agents posing as dishonest businessmen with money to spread around.

The 64-year-old Ford is accused of taking bribes from FBI agents posing as dishonest businessmen seeking legislative favors. He is charged with bribery, extortion and threatening a federal witness.

But Ford's attorney Michael Scholl said Ford didn't take a bribe.

He said the part-time lawmaker and full-time business consultant thought the agents were businessmen looking for advice on how to deal with state government.

Ford represented his Memphis district for 31 years.

He resigned in May 2005 shortly after his Tennessee Waltz indictment.

Ford also is charged with taking $800,000 in illegal payments from state contractors in an unrelated federal lawsuit in Nashville.

Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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