Rep. Ford’s bank fraud case moves to fact-finding phase

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State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) was back in court for a status hearing on Friday morning.

Unlike his last appearance, the room wasn’t flooded with supporters. But Ford’s attorney Thomas Durkin said they’re feeling “very confident” after the hearing, which took less than 10 minutes.

That’s because Ford’s legal team received the U.S. Attorney’s discovery – two CD-ROMs filled with digital documents — about 10 days ago, Durkin said in the Dirksen Federal Building’s lobby with Ford by his side.

“There’s quite a bit to review,” Durkin said. “Everything I’ve reviewed so far is favorable from what I can tell, and beyond that I really can’t comment, because I haven’t read all of it.”

Last month, Ford pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of bank fraud and other charges.

According to the federal indictment, Ford allegedly obtained a fraudulent $500,000 increase on a line of credit from the now-defunct ShoreBank in 2006. Federal regulators shut down that bank in 2010.

Read AustinTalks’ “Rep. Ford supporters flood courtroom” for more information about the case and Ford’s arraignment.

Friday’s status hearing comes just days after Ford was sworn in to the new General Assembly.

But the criminal charges will not prevent the West Side lawmaker from doing his job, Durkin said in an interview with AustinTalks at Ford’s December arraignment.

“This has nothing whatsoever to do with his public office, that’s clear, everybody has acknowledged that,” Durkin told AustinTalks on Dec. 11. “He’s a very successful, very honest public official, [and] he intends to continue serving the public.”

Although just a few community court watchers and supporters came to the hearing, there’s been growing support and activity on the Stand 4 Ford’s Facebook page.

A few hours after the hearing, Melissa Williams, criminal justice committee chairwoman of the NAACP’s Westside Branch, wrote on the Facebook’s event page that Ford “knows his community stands with him,” despite the small court turnout.

“Status calls take five minutes,” Williams wrote. “People need to be at work and make the time count at the most important times.”

On the Facebook page, supporters can find ways to take action, including sending pre-drafted letters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, urging all charges against Ford be dismissed.

There’s also a website set up in support of Ford.

At the status hearing, Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer required the pretrial motions be filed by March 15.

“We’re taking a little extra time, because I have a trial in the federal court in San Diego, and she gave us that time,” Durkin said.

The next status hearing is on April 3.

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