State Rep. La Shawn Ford pleads guilty to misdemeanor - Fox 2 News Headlines

State Rep. La Shawn Ford pleads guilty to misdemeanor

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

In a setback for federal prosecutors, State Rep. La Shawn Ford pleaded guilty Monday morning to a misdemeanor after being charged in 2012 in a 17-count indictment in a bank fraud case, the Sun-Times is reporting.

From the start, Ford, 41, loudly protested his innocence, claiming the charges against him were “ridiculous.”

Ford pleaded only to a new misdemeanor charge and in return prosecutors dropped all felony counts. A superceding information filed Monday charged him with one count of delivering a false federal tax return. The amount in question is about $3,700 in taxes. Sentencing is set for November.

At the end of his 30-minute guilty plea hearing, Ford smiled broadly and hugged his attorney, Thomas Durkin.

Outside court, in the Dirksen Federal Building lobby, Durkin, said he was delighted with the deal prosecutors offered his client, whose job as state representative will not be affected.

“It’s a very, very favorable outcome,” Durkin said, as his client stood at his side.

And Durkin—who had previously accused the U.S. Attorney’s office of prosecuting Ford because he is a black elected official—was effusive in his praise for prosecutors.

“A lot of prosecutor’s offices would have been belligerent enough to insist on forcing the case to trial and run the risk of losing,” Durkin said.

Durkin said his client had been prepared to fight the charges at trial.

Asked if he thought the case had initially been overcharged, Durkin replied: “Look, I’m going to take my wins where I find them and I’m not going to gloat.”

Ford spoke very briefly after the hearing, apologizing for underestimating his taxes and praising his lawyer.

“You took care of me and you saw me as a man, and I appreciate that,” Ford said.

In the 17-count indictment, Ford—who invests in Chicago real estate—was accused of much more serious charges of fraudulently obtaining a $500,000 increase and a two-year extension on a line of credit from a failed bank called ShoreBank and making false statements to gain multiple advances.

Ford operated Ford Desired Real Estate, and also invested personally in real estate, got the loans to rehabilitate specific buildings but was accused in the indictment of using the funds to pay unrelated expenses, including, car loans, credit cards, mortgages, payments to a casino in Hammond, Ind., and for his 2006 campaign for state representative.

Durkin alleged in a court filing in June that Ford was unfairly singled out for prosecution because he is a black elected official.

“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.”

The filing alleged that a separate civil lawsuit had shown how white people accused of identical acts at Shorebank were not charged with any crime by the feds.

Prosecutors rejected that argument, but declined to comment on the embarrassing setback Monday.

Ford at the time of his indictment in 2012 told the Sun-Times “There’s no bank fraud in my blood.

“The prosecutors — they have a good writer, and they wrote a good story. I lived the story, and I’ll tell the story. I’m not a bank fraud, that’s for sure,” he continued. “I’m a hard-working man. They have a way of working, and I have a way of living. I’m honest.”

“I spent every dime I had in real estate. Everything that I own, everything I ever made went through to real estate. What I didn’t spend in real estate, I spent to serve the people,” he said. “I financed my own campaign. You don’t do that for over $200,000 when you know you’re a bank fraud or you know there’s something that could come back and bite you in the ass.

“Why would you spend your own money like that if you knew you were dirty?” Ford asked.

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