* Indicted Rep. LaShawn Ford pled not guilty yesterday. His attorney hinted at the defense he’ll use…
The Nov. 29 indictment alleges Ford obtained multiple advances by making false statements about his intended use of the bank funds. The indictment also alleges that Ford diverted bank funds toward personal use: for car loans, credit cards, other mortgages owed by ShoreBank, payments to a casino in Hammond, and his 2006 campaign for state rep.
[Tom Durkin] did not go into specifics of Ford’s defense, but contended federal prosecutors may be hinging their case on a mistake “on a financial form” submitted to the bank.
“These cases are usually about numbers put in a form and there are questions about whether banks relied on it or not,” Durkin said. “My point is that … when businesses and corporations submit loans, there is often a lot of mistakes made on numbers. And there are questions whether that was material the bank relied upon. I believe we are going to show that this bank was relying on his good character and his person.”
* Durkin also had some harsh words for prosecutors…
“I think there should be questions raised as why at this stage of the game these charges would be brought five to six years later,” Durkin told reporters after Ford’s arraignment at the Dirksen Federal Building.
“These are garden variety bank fraud charges that have nothing whatsoever to do with his public office,” Durkin added, expressing puzzlement that his client is the only person to be linked with the bank’s failure.
“I am not aware of any other prosecutions coming out of that bank,” Durkin said. “Why the only person that is prosecuted is a popular African-American legislator. I don’t understand it.”
* Several people showed up for the court proceeding…
In an unusual scene, about 50 people cheered and clapped as Ford entered the downstairs lobby after his brief arraignment. The crowd surged around the 40-year-old West Side lawmaker. […]
As he was exiting the courthouse, Ford appeared visibly moved by the show of support, turning briefly to compose himself before he stood before the television cameras.
Among Ford’s supporters were the president of Christ the King High School, a Catholic priest, community activists and a 71-year man with gout leaning on a cane who took the bus to be there.
“I know he did nothing but good,” said West Side resident James Ruffin, 71, who has campaigned for Ford. “He’s always down there on the spot to help you out. I had to do something to support him.”
* And the Oak Park Wednesday Journal has given its readers three reasons to reserve judgement in the case…
There are a large number of people on both the West Side and in Oak Park — the communities he represents in Springfield — who are standing with Ford in these first days since his indictment. These are people we know and whose judgment we respect.
The charges against him do not relate to his six years in office. Unlike most of the political thugs who get indicted and convicted around here, no one is accusing him of selling out his office for profit. These charges tie back to Ford’s days as a Realtor and home rehabber and how he handled bank funds.
We respect his body of work as a legislator. And, we’d suggest, given the quiet emanating from Springfield, that his colleagues there are willing to be patient for a fair hearing of his case. This reaction is in marked contrast to the near instant demands that fellow West Side legislator Derrick Smith be expelled from the House almost immediately after his indictment.