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Marin: Feds back off on ruining a good man’s life

Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014

* Carol Marin writes about Rep. LaShawn Ford

In the Great Recession, the Obama Justice Department has sent no Big Bankers to jail for the billions they plundered, but it went after a lone black state representative for 17 counts of felony bank fraud? The charge: improperly using a $1.5 million line of credit from ShoreBank in his struggling real estate business, with some of the money going to pay personal debts.

Amazingly, not a single soul from ShoreBank responsible for lending Ford the money, nor a single other customer — many white — was charged with making bad loans or defaulting on loans.

Only La Shawn Ford was bagged by the government. What set him apart? He was an elected official, though the charges had nothing to do with his performance in office.

* I’m excerpting too much for Fair Use, but whatever. More

First elected in 2006, Ford went up against the regular Democrats who endorsed the incumbent hack, Calvin Giles. It took Ford three tries, but he finally won.

The Machine was stunned.

Life has always been against the odds for La Shawn Ford. The son of a drug-addicted mother, he was raised by his grandmother and sent to Catholic schools. And then to the seminary.

Ultimately, his path took him to teaching and business. And politics.

At his 2012 arraignment in federal court, the lobby of the Dirksen Federal Building filled with people from his neighborhood. Unlike when fellow state Rep. Derrick Smith was indicted on bribery charges, there was an outpouring on behalf of Ford that is seldom seen in the granite courthouse.

* Sun-Times

The surprise plea deal on Monday comes less than two months after Durkin in June accused prosecutors of unfairly targeting Ford because he is a black elected official — a charge they angrily rejected.

But evidence from a separate civil case showed that white defendants who engaged in identical behavior to Ford’s at ShoreBank were not criminally charged, Durkin argued in court papers at the time.

“There is no doubt that Defendant’s status as an African-American elected state public official drives this case,” Durkin wrote. “As counsel have argued in detail, but for his status as an African-American elected state public official, Defendant would not have been indicted.”

Though Pallmeyer refused to throw out the case on those grounds, it’s an argument that could have caused a political problem for prosecutors at trial.

Subscribers know more about that motion.

* Tribune

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Ford could be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison, but probation is the most likely outcome in part because he is first-time offender.

In pleading guilty to the misdemeanor, Ford admitted that in his 2007 tax return he over-reported what he spent to rehab a single-family house in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, reducing his capital gain from the sale of the home. The deception cost the Internal Revenue Service a tax loss of $3,782, according to the plea deal.

Keep in mind that those original 17 felony counts carried a maximum total penalty of 510 years in prison and $17 million in fines. But he probably won’t do any time now and just pay four grand or so to the government.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


25 Comments
  1. - Concerned - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 9:47 am:

    I didn’t really know much about LaShawn Ford before this case, but I like him a lot now that I do know something about him.


  2. - Amalia - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    this case was brought by a previous U.S. Attorney administration, correct?


  3. - A guy... - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    I’m happy things worked out for Rep. Ford. He seems like a very decent guy who got himself caught in the eddy of crazy real estate in a crazy time…..but this article panders so much as to make one gag. She’s lost it completely.


  4. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    An honorable, self made man…anyone who knows him could not believe that the charges would stick…


  5. - walker - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    Marin was right on target, with the right tone.

    If anything she under praised Mr. Ford’s long efforts to fight to recover and rehabilitate his community. She under criticized the reality that only Ford, one borrower, was targeted for criminal charges in this significant bank failure.

    This was an out of control locomotive on a single-track railroad, and it is a great day when they realize the truth and put on the brakes.


  6. - Pat C - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:30 am:

    this case was brought by a previous U.S. Attorney administration, correct?

    Sept. 2012.


  7. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    Carol absolutely nailed it. LaShawn is a good man, and Fardon deserves kudos for dropping the case. It never should have been brought in the first place.


  8. - George Washington - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:50 am:

    It seems like there should be some kind of penalty for the prosecution, for their blatant, unfair targeting of Mr. Ford because he is a black elected official.


  9. - walker - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 11:06 am:

    My guess is that simply being a state office holder was a big enough target.


  10. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    My comments yesterday greeted this as great news not only for Mr. Ford, but for our state and then some.

    Regardless, this == but it went after a lone black state representative ==, and her general focus on race seems dubious here.

    We should be happy for the lone, good man whose life was not ruined. We should be happy for him no matter what he looks like, or even what his age or gender or sexuality is, because it makes no difference to whether or not he is a decent person. The implication that == the Obama Justice Department == is targeting lawmakers on the basis of race is a heavy charge by Marin, and one she can hopefully back up with more than gossip and speculation. Particularly since it comes after Peter Fitzgerald has left the office and can no longer address her assertions via that role.

    Fitzgerald has a good reputation and s solid track record in this sort of prosecution. If his office went after Ford, it is more likely to have been based on believing the evidence indicated Ford was guilty of these charges than based on the color of his skin.

    We should be happy for the man because of who he is beneath the skin, not the exterior.


  11. - Left Leaner - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    That is great news for Rep. Ford. He’s a good person with potential to help a lot of people in Illinois.

    Meanwhile…I’m still waiting for charges to be leveled against all of the people who actually committed fraud. Where’s the DOJ on that? Paging Attorney General Holder.

    Not.Holding.My.Breath.


  12. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    Durkin nailed it.


  13. - Judgment Day - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    “Meanwhile…I’m still waiting for charges to be leveled against all of the people who actually committed fraud. Where’s the DOJ on that? Paging Attorney General Holder.

    Not.Holding.My.Breath.”
    ——————-

    The new definition of the word “Eternity”.

    Btw, don’t be expecting any more fraud cases from the pre-2009 era. The 5 year statute of limitations has run out on most of that stuff. There’s been some attempts to breach the 5 year limit, with some mixed success, but we’ll see….

    It’s all “YBG-IBG” (You’ll Be Gone - I’ll Be Gone) as far as holding people responsible for the financial crash….


  14. - Keyser Soze - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:12 pm:

    How do you regain your reputation after you’ve been raked over by the Feds? They have no skin in the game. They have nothing to lose and an unlimited budget to advance their cause. If they win a case, even if it should never have been brought, they get to put another notch in their belts. If they lose they simply move on to the next one. They will get no respect fom me. It is high time that we level the playing field. Best wishes to Rep. Ford.


  15. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:14 pm:

    Ford’s life might not have been ruined, but you can bet he’s out north of six figures defending himself against the full weight of the national government.

    This was a despicable abuse of power. To tune up a GA mushroom with 17 felony counts over some mickey mouse loan application is out of Kafka.

    Good on Fardon. And if there are any holdovers in that office from this travesty of justice, he should fire the lot of them. They’re dangerous.


  16. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    ==her general focus on race seems dubious here.==

    Here: “evidence from a separate civil case showed that white defendants who engaged in identical behavior to Ford’s at ShoreBank were not criminally charged.”


  17. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 1:54 pm:

    Couldn’t be happier for Ford and his family. What a weight removed. Also happy for the rest of us: he is a thoughtful and courageous addition to the GA, and has remained so even with this incredible stress.

    On the larger trend, my thoughts –

    Yes, black politicians are being targeted via racism. Though it’s not necessarily by the feds:

    - FBI and Fitz were focused on busting IL pols, particularly Chicago Dems, ostensibly to break open patronage/corruption

    - The good old boys with the most actual patronage influence (and business dealings and contributions that laypeople consider corruption) have extra support to buy infrastructure and handlers to shield their words and deeds from dead-on illegality. (short version: Madigan’s going to keep calling Metra)

    - Most black pols are not full-fledged members of the club. They are usually not staked the same, and even when they are, they are not privy to the same insider channels of communication, mentorship, and advice.
    —-This is partly due to craven calculations — they tend to hold uncontested party seats with less powerful constituents and raise fewer contributions from both constituents and industry. Right or wrong, party leaders often view them as somewhat interchangeable/disposable. And between that and staffing shortages, they can also be considered somewhat controllable.
    —-But this is also partly due to the simple fact that **they are black and the Machine is racist** and even the truly colluding African-American pols are just plain never going to be insiders. Even if they think they are.
    —-As a result of all the above, black pols generally enjoy less party support, less experienced staff advisors/lawyers, and fewer powerful and responsible mentors.

    - Pols with shallow staff benches barely raising enough to stay in the game are walking targets for corruption busts (Smith). Even those with solid political careers don’t necessarily have anybody watching to make sure they’re staying in line (JJJ).

    - Independent-minded black politicians? Come on. Who’s going to shield them? People are hoping they’ll trip. So yeah, when they make regular-people mistakes because nobody warns them not to, they are made into The Example…and not just by the feds.


  18. - Barry Aldridge - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 3:37 pm:

    Carol Marin wants it both ways. She complains that none of the white men involved were indicted, which indicates she thinks there was a crime committed. She seems to imply it would have been OK to indict Mr. Ford only if white people were also indicted with him, but that the Government should forego prosecution unless the races of those indicted are racially balanced.


  19. - Anon - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 4:39 pm:

    So why were white customers engaging in the same type of transactions not prosecuted the way Ford was? Too bad the Federales won’t tell us.


  20. - Anon - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 4:41 pm:

    CBH. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis about black legislators. I’d like to hear Rich’s take.


  21. - walker - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 5:50 pm:

    GBH right on all points.

    Just to add a little, if the Feds’ play was to make a deal and work their way up the chain, they picked the wrong starting point. For all the reasons you outlined, plus the fact the Ford ran against “the Democratic machine” to get the seat in the first place.


  22. - Amalia - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 5:51 pm:

    which assistant prosecutor had a name on the original paperwork?


  23. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 8:34 pm:

    Walker: Yes, exactly. Do you break open a conspiracy by defining an outsider as the weakest link? No. You just get disavowal.

    Best case scenario (if you have enough to make serious charges stick, obviously not true in this case) you create a power vacuum for the hydra to repopulate.

    “Worst” case (for the feds, not “the people”): you lose, and in the process create a truly independent, fairly bulletproof politician. Here’s hoping…


  24. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 8:52 pm:

    AUSA Julie Porter signed the original charges and the plea agreement according to the Google. She was also part of the Cellini prosecution team.


  25. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 5, 14 @ 10:19 pm:

    I don’t think the feds were trying to make Ford flip on someone, because he wasn’t a player in those circles.

    I think they invested a lot of time in the West Side and, to date, haven’t boated anyone but the virtually entrapped, sad-sack Derrick Smith.

    At one point, the federales seemed to have their hooks set for a very high-profile political player on the West Side. That never happened.

    You have to justify that expense somehow, and I think Smith and Ford, to date, have been the consolations prizes.

    Maybe St. Patrick of Fitzgerald can shed some light on it. He was running the show when they were fixing to tune up Ford with 17 felony counts.

    For crying out loud, Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana never looked at 17 felony counts.


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