SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
CapitolFax.com
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
The story behind the government’s retreat in the LaShawn Ford case

Monday, Aug 11, 2014

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

As you probably know by now, the US Attorney’s office in Chicago has agreed to drop all felony charges against Illinois state Rep. LaShawn Ford (D-Chicago) and has charged him instead with a simple misdemeanor.

The original 17 federal counts of bank fraud and submitting false information to a bank each carried potential sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine - meaning Ford was essentially looking at spending the rest of his natural life behind bars for allegedly falsely obtaining a higher credit line that he wasn’t eligible for and using part of the proceeds for things unrelated to the loan’s stated purpose.

The new charge of delivering a false tax return to the IRS is calculated in the plea agreement to be a term of zero to six months.

What the heck happened here?

The Assistant US Attorney who was in charge of Ford’s case also handled state Rep. Derrick Smith’s investigation. Smith was recently convicted of accepting a cash bribe, but one of the jurors in the trial told the Chicago Tribune after the verdict that some of his colleagues struggled with what they considered to be “sleazy” federal tactics.

Ford’s legal team included famed criminal defense attorney Tom Durkin. The team filed a motion in June which attracted some press coverage over an explosive claim that Ford was being targeted because he was a black legislator. But the motion to dismiss the indictment also revealed for the first time how the case began, which Ford’s attorneys said “belie the notion that this is an even-handed, simple bank fraud case.”

At the time of Ford’s indictment, the US Attorney’s office claimed the investigation fell “under the umbrella of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force,” which the feds claimed was investigating “significant financial crimes.”

But an FBI report from May of 2011 shows that a mortgage broker under indictment was asked by the FBI about a loan officer who worked out of an office owned by Ford. The broker was asked if he’d ever spoken with Ford, if he knew whether Ford had other offices and if he knew whether Ford managed his campaign office out of his realty office. The case title on the FBI form was “CSLPO,” which means “Corruption of State and Local Public Officials.” Ford’s lawyers wrote that the federal probe was “undeniably a politically motivated investigation.”

The defense also pointed to a recent FDIC civil suit brought against ShoreBank, where Ford did business. One of the defendants was alleged to be negligent for violating policy on 20 loans. The defendant was also Ford’s managing loan officer. The allegations included misconduct by other ShoreBank loan customers (several of whom are white) which appeared to far exceed Ford’s. And a 2008 internal FDIC report uncovered by Ford’s attorneys described the legislator as being “extremely cooperative” with the bank, and pointed to what Ford’s lawyers say was the his real problem - the downward spiral of the real estate market.

“Unable to find any political corruption grounds to prosecute Defendant, the prosecutors selected this misguided and improper bank fraud case,” Ford’s attorneys wrote. Ford’s attorneys also demanded information from prosecutors about any other federal investigations of ShoreBank customers and any directives from above on how to handle the Ford investigation.

The Assistant US Attorney who handled Ford’s case has since left for private practice and a new US Attorney is now in place. Those two career moves appeared to have put some fresh eyes on this Ford matter, particularly after that motion to dismiss was filed.

Whatever happened, US Attorney Zachary Fardon deserves plaudits for reexamining this prosecution. From the very start, the case appeared to be heavy-handed and overly charged and nowhere near in line with the financial task force’s goal of prosecuting “significant” crimes. It’s not often that a top federal prosecutor will back down, but Fardon obviously did and that’s to his great credit.

The new charges agreed to by Ford state he overvalued a property’s rehab costs by about $23,000 when calculating his capital gains on the property’s sale, which wound up costing the IRS $3,782 in lost taxes.

“I regret this mistake,” Ford wrote to his colleagues last week, and concluded by saying he hoped the ordeal “will make me a better person and a more effective Member of the Illinois General Assembly.”

Ford obviously has his flaws, but I hope he can now move forward with his life.

* Related…

* Fardon explains LaShawn Ford plea deal: “It’s not our job to win or lose,” Fardon said. “It’s our job to do the right thing. My office is full of altruistic public servants who work hard every day to make hard judgments about what is the right thing given the particular facts and circumstances in front of them. That’s what we do. And so, in that case as in all, we did what we thought was right.”

* LaShawn Ford honored at West Side church

* Rep. LaShawn Ford Says He Still Has Supporters, Hasn’t Lost ‘Respect’

* Editorial: Ford’s sweet victory: The Journal has been stout in its defense of LaShawn Ford, not because we had any insights into his tax returns but because we have come to know him in our reporting of his efforts as Austin and Oak Park’s state rep over the past eight years and as a real estate developer before that. We could ask harsh questions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office because these charges have always seemed a gigantic overreach to us.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


15 Comments
  1. - Exodus - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 9:25 am:

    JMO, but reads like a shot at Fardon’s predecessor as USA for the Northern District.


  2. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 9:44 am:

    This is pretty unusual for the US Attorney’s office. They have an extremely high success rate because of almost unlimited investigative resources and they usually don’t move forward without metaphysical certainty of guilt.

    As usual, the negligent prosecutors move on and prosper without paying a price for their misdeeds.

    The damage has been done to Rep Ford. His legal bills must be well into the six figures. If there was justice, he’d be reimbursed for a substantial part of his defense…at the expense of the miscreant prosecutor.

    The US Attorney’s office used to be the “clean jeans” of the justice system, while the state’s attorney in Cook often had the dirty hands.

    This would be a good time for the new
    US attorney to publically comment on what happened, and establish his policy to avoid frivilous prosecution.

    Anyone think that will happen?


  3. - Coffee Cup - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 9:52 am:

    It probably was the right call. The U.S. Attorney’s office has to go wherever the facts of a case lead them so I certainly don’t fault them for initially pursuing the lead on LaShawn Ford. I would imagine that the inference and the accusation of racial overtones in this case might also have prompted the FBI and the Justice Department to want to “scale down” this potential hot potato.
    Here is a thought to mull over, though: When a case is dropped (although this one has not been dropped), wouldn’t it be the “morally” and “ethically” right decision for the Justice Department to reimburse the accused for any and all legal costs that they incurred in defending themselves against false charges brought against them by a federal or state investigation? I have watched these falsely accused people have to incur huge personal legal bills to defend themselves by using expensive attorneys (like Tom Durkin)and it just doesn’t seem fair to me. But, as my Uncle Bill used to say to me, “Who says life has to be fair?”


  4. - Amalia - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    and that former AUSA is probably out there defending people right now. who is s/he?


  5. - Nearly Normal - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 10:04 am:

    And how many of the real perps in the economic meltdown have been prosecuted and put in jail?

    Not many.


  6. - Todd - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 10:15 am:

    I got to see this kind of thing from a very short distance. The feds have way to much power and very little oversight. They get more about the conviction and justifying the expenditures of all these federal resources, expecially if they do a big raid and such.

    they hate to walk away with nothing.


  7. - walker - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 10:32 am:

    Flimsier even than I suspected. Nothing ever there on the banking allegations.


  8. - Taxandspendfolly - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 11:07 am:

    This is a real dig at former USA Fitzgerald, whom the media seems to idolize. In fact those who dealt with the office under Fitzgerald know he was often unreasonable and had zero empathy or understanding of people. The office bluffed a lot under Fitz, and good defense lawyers would successfully call those bluffs. Tom Durkin was an AUSA back in the days of the giants, and he knew Fitz was bluffing. Fitz’ bad here.


  9. - West Sider - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    I’m reminded of Reagan’s Secretary of Labor, Ray Donovan who, after aquital of corruption charges, was famously quoted as asking, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”


  10. - Taxandspendfolly - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 11:30 am:

    And watch Fitz lose about half of his Blagojevich counts on appeal soon. That case was overcharged as well.


  11. - wordslinger - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    –The Assistant US Attorney who handled Ford’s case has since left for private practice …–

    That’s what it was all about. Making a splash, putting some skins on the wall and cashing out.

    The lengths they went to entrap Smith and go after Ford were disgusting abuses of power. Had nothing to do with justice, just resume-building.


  12. - Illinois taxpayer - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 12:26 pm:

    Are the Feds going to pay his legal bills too? God knows how many years he’ll have to work to pay those off because of an all too common abuse of Federal prosecutorial power.


  13. - Mokenavince - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    Ford looked like easy pickin’s for the former prosecutor . After all the G has all the money in the world for a beat down. Fardon did the right thing , and it’s about time.
    We actually have quite a few honest politicians in this State.


  14. - Arizona Bob - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 2:47 pm:

    @Mokenavince

    =We actually have quite a few honest politicians in this State.=

    Name about a dozen, and let us take our shots, Vince.


  15. - gg - Monday, Aug 11, 14 @ 5:57 pm:

    Ford should have walked clean.

    Feds are unfair bullies.


TrackBack URI

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Oberweis now for gay marriage
* The patented Pat Quinn close has begun
* Question of the day
* McKinney resigns from Sun-Times: "I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me"
* Another one pops
* Reality vs. reporting
* New anti-Rauner theme: "Wolf of Winnetka"
* Redefining Bobby
* Pat and Bruce
* The lindane file
* US judge orders hiring monitor at IDOT
* Underdog endorsements
* Birth control, millionaires and the minimum wage
* Good morning!
* Yesterday's blog posts

Support CapitolFax.com
Visit our advertisers...

...............

...............

...............

...............

...............


Search This Blog...

Search the 98th General Assembly By Bill Number
(example: HB0001)

Search the 98th General Assembly By Keyword

          
        * Amazon Fire Phone not on fire, revenue takes a hit
        * iHeartRadio for iOS Updated with Support for CarPlay
        * LG G Watch R to drop in Europe first as global rollout starts
        * You Should Play: Crush enemies in the mysterious endless-action game Helix
        * Microsoft Lumia branding goes official, new device coming soon
        * LG G3 Screen announced with new NUCLUN octa-core processor
        * OFFICIAL: LG comes out with own proc, F490 is the LG G3 Screen

        * Project Ara To Get A Google Play Like Hardware Store
        * How the XPrize Foundation Is Building Our Next-Gen Health Sensors
        * Mother Superior
        * Naim Does the Impossible: Build a Soundbar Even Audiophiles Love
        * Why Amazon Insists on Losing So Much Money on Its Phone and Streaming Video
        * Social Network Ello Becomes A Public Benefit Corporation
        * FlowPaw Teaches Computer Coding By Building Gizmo Projects (video)

        * Longtime scout Provas passes away after battle with cancer
        * Eaton, Ramirez named AL Gold Glove finalists
        * Gold Glove Awards finalists revealed
        * White Sox AFL class features talented Anderson
        * Nori Aoki: The White Sox Killer of 2014
        * World Series Game 2: Notes and discussion
        * 23 potential MLB free agents as SkyMall items


        Main Menu
        Home
        Illinois
        YouTube
        Pundit rankings
        Obama
        Subscriber Content
        Durbin
        Burris
        Blagojevich Trial
        Advertising
        Updated Posts
        Polls

        Archives
        October 2014
        September 2014
        August 2014
        July 2014
        June 2014
        May 2014
        April 2014
        March 2014
        February 2014
        January 2014
        December 2013
        November 2013
        October 2013
        September 2013
        August 2013
        July 2013
        June 2013
        May 2013
        April 2013
        March 2013
        February 2013
        January 2013
        December 2012
        November 2012
        October 2012
        September 2012
        August 2012
        July 2012
        June 2012
        May 2012
        April 2012
        March 2012
        February 2012
        January 2012
        December 2011
        November 2011
        October 2011
        September 2011
        August 2011
        July 2011
        June 2011
        May 2011
        April 2011
        March 2011
        February 2011
        January 2011
        December 2010
        November 2010
        October 2010
        September 2010
        August 2010
        July 2010
        June 2010
        May 2010
        April 2010
        March 2010
        February 2010
        January 2010
        December 2009
        November 2009
        October 2009
        September 2009
        August 2009
        July 2009
        June 2009
        May 2009
        April 2009
        March 2009
        February 2009
        January 2009
        December 2008
        November 2008
        October 2008
        September 2008
        August 2008
        July 2008
        June 2008
        May 2008
        April 2008
        March 2008
        February 2008
        January 2008
        December 2007
        November 2007
        October 2007
        September 2007
        August 2007
        July 2007
        June 2007
        May 2007
        April 2007
        March 2007
        February 2007
        January 2007
        December 2006
        November 2006
        October 2006
        September 2006
        August 2006
        July 2006
        June 2006
        May 2006
        April 2006
        March 2006
        February 2006
        January 2006
        December 2005
        April 2005
        March 2005
        February 2005
        January 2005
        December 2004
        November 2004
        October 2004

        Blog*Spot Archives
        November 2005
        October 2005
        September 2005
        August 2005
        July 2005
        June 2005
        May 2005

        Syndication

        RSS Feed 2.0
        Comments RSS 2.0
        WordPress

        Loading


        * Few legal options for ex-Sun-Times reporter..
        * Next Illinois governor faces tough decisions..
        * GOP files court action against Rock Island Coun.....
        * Ken Griffin In a Losing Divorce Trade As Volati.....
        * Officials rethink vote-counting after AG decree..
        * Rauner denies pressuring reporter who resigned..


        * Officials rethink vote-counting after AG decree
        * Quinn says he'll comply with hiring monitor
        * Complications arise just 12 days before Ill. vote
        * Vereen brothers square off when Bears visit Pats
        * Gary killings put spotlight on abandoned buildings
        * Illinois GOP files lawsuit over poll practices
        * New bridge helping ease Chicago rail congestion
        * Injured Illinois Cub Scouts expected to recover
        * Woman admits theft from Quincy community theater
        * Jobless rate falls in all 12 Illinois metro areas

        * Officials rethink early vote-counting after Madigan ruling
        * Minimum wage increase supporters urge early voting
        * Sun-Times political reporter resigns following Rauner complaint
        * Minimum wage hike supporters urge early voting
        * Federal judge orders court-appointed monitor for IDOT hiring
        * Rep. Raymond Poe to undergo stem cell transplant
        * Bill Clinton campaigns for Quinn, Durbin
        * Quinn, Rauner spar over jobs, taxes
        * Election 2014: Learn about all the candidates
        * What to watch for in third governor debate tonight

        * Few legal options for ex-Sun-Times reporter
        * Fast-growing Internet lender Enova going public next month
        * Quinn says he'll comply with hiring monitor
        * Sun-Times' colorful past in covering (and making) news
        * Chicago KPMG executive named Girl Scouts board president


        * Illinois needs better way to deal with terminally ill inmates
        * At panel on school closings, board acknowledges more planning needed
        * Marina City residents reminded to watch their step during Wallenda’s walk
        * Republican senators question Quinn’s IDOT scandal response
        * Child who became ill on plane tests negative for Ebola
        * Tollway might permanently lower cost to open I-Pass account
        * Killer gets 27 years for throwing woman out 3rd-floor window
        * CPS wants to delay new standardized test, even though state already has said 'no'
        * Father Bob Botthof, teacher who became priest after losing wife, dies at 85
        * Scandal or not, Bring on that  federal monitor


        * Ebola test negative for child who fell ill on flight from Liberia to O'Hare
        * Police wound gunman involved in fatal robbery in Auburn Gresham
        * Off-duty Chicago cop 'alert and talking' after shot during robbery attempt
        * Victim of serial killing suspect lived in fear: 'Too scared to do anything'
        * 1 stabbed, 3 teens shot in separate incidents
        * Cops: Girl, 12, with bipolar disorder missing
        * War vets vying in 8th District diverge on Islamic State tactics
        * Tollway update: 400 lawsuits filed against scofflaws
        * Pit bull breaks through screen door, attacks woman in Carpentersville


        * Bedrock 66: Charlie Parr Plays Springfield Friday
        * Oberweis Would Back Federal Same Sex Marriage Law
        * Wild Bison Return To IL
        * Scary Story: The Diviner by Susan Vondrak
        * Artist Profile: Local Troubadour Tom Irwin
        * Real estate and religion: The tale of Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
        * Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment
        * Judge Orders Court Appointed Monitor For IDOT Hiring
        * 13th Dist. Candidates Talk NAFTA, Ebola During Springfield Debate
        * Attorneys Due In Court For Quinn Hiring Lawsuit


        * Our Opinion: Bell, Manar, Davidsmeyer endorsed in state legislative races
        * Craig Burns: Honesty, integrity in great supply at CWLP
        * E.J. Dionne: Ebola, pandering and courage
        * Esther Cepeda: Benefits of closing the word gap
        * Officials rethink early vote-counting after Madigan ruling
        * Our Opinion: Frerichs has the expertise to be Illinois treasurer
        * Robert Kaestner: Good education policy is good health policy
        * Eugene Robinson: Warren makes the case for a presidential run
        * Bernard Schoenburg: Local Rauner ad leaves out ‘everything Springfield isn’t’ line
        * Minimum wage increase supporters urge early voting


        * Blowing in the wind
        * Triopia gets 23rd win
        * Upcoming Services (Oct. 24, 2014)
        * Do or die
        * Local Scoreboard
        * (No heading)
        * Journal-Courier Top Five
        * Pinckneyvllle to host Mardi Gras contest
        * One dead in crash in Walcott
        * Holiday spirit


        * Microbrewery trying to open in Arlington Heights
        * Brown, Gold among elite skaters at Sears Centre this weekend
        * Dawn Patrol: Cops praised for heroism; pit bull attacks mail carrier
        * Victims rights, voting rights among proposed amendments
        * Hultgren addresses rampant sex slavery in suburbs at forum

        * Patrick Cannon defense strategy rare but n...
        * Feds fine Jesse Jackson Jr.'s campaign com...
        * Ex-Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. faces sen...
        * Representative Jan Schakowsky Sends Letter...
        * Rep. candidate pushes to uphold marriage b...
        * Reps. Schakowsky and Waxman Introduce Bill...
        * Statement by Representative Jan Schakowsky...
        * U.S. House Passes Resolution Condemning An...
        * FAA Rejects Call For New O'Hare Noise Stud...
        * Representatives Quigley, Duckworth, Schako...

        * Tribune poll: Durbin holds big lead over O......
        * Letter: Time to send Oberweis to the U.S. ......
        * Letter: Time to send Oberweis to the U.S. ......
        * Letter: Time to send Oberweis to the U.S. ......
        * Letter: Time to send Oberweis to the U.S. ......

        * U.S. Senator Mark Kirk to talk with Triton......
        * A Brief History of Michelle Obama Career-G......
        * Marco Rubio, Mark Kirk Warn John Kerry on ......

        * Cook County Voting Machine Miscasts Candidate's Vote
        * Clowns With Sex Toys Attacked Illinois Family
        * Clinton hails Durbin and Quinn as "the future"
        * Andrew Klavan: Just Say No To Emma Watson and Feminism [video]
        * Illinois goes after Jimmy John's on taxes after company threatens move out of state
        * Davis Launches New Ad [video]
        * University of Chicago Endowment Reaches $7.5 billion
        * Democrat songwriter takes aim at Republican gubernatorial candidate [video]
        * Ryan T. Anderson and the Future of Marriage [video]
        * Quinn launches video exploiting reporter's resignation [video]


        * New Ad: Labor leader backs Rauner
        * Jewish Newspapers Endorse Rauner for Governor
        * TV Breaking News: Ethics blow for Pat Quinn
        * Federal judge deals Quinn ethics blow on IDOT patronage hiring
        * Rauner Statement on Federal Hiring Monitor at IDOT




            Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller