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NC5 Investigates: Capitol HIll Corruption

Ford Faces Second Corruption Trial

Former state Sen. John Ford Former state Sen. John Ford
Then-acting U.S. Attorney Craig Morford Then-acting U.S. Attorney Craig Morford
Ben Cunningham, tax activist Ben Cunningham, tax activist

He's already serving a five-year sentence for his role in the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting.

But former state Sen. John Ford goes on trial again Tuesday.

This time, he's accused of illegally profiting from the state's TennCare health insurance program.

Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams uncovered many of the questions three years ago that Ford will finally have to face.

When John Ford returns to Nashville, it will be here at the federal courthouse -- not the state Capitol when he once reigned.

And, on the trip here, the once-proud state senator likely will be in handcuffs.

Long before John Ford was busted in the Tennessee Waltz bribery sting, our exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigations uncovered serious questions about where the powerful Senate chairman got his money.

"Can we talk to you about some of the sources of income that you have?" Williams asked Ford back in 2005.

"No, you cannot," Ford responded. "It's personal."

But not to tax activist Ben Cunningham.

"I don't know what John Ford was doing with a million dollars in consulting fees, but that's just the problem," Cunningham told Williams.

Williams asked Ford, "Do you think taxpayers have a right to know?"

"Nope," he replied.

Then-acting U.S. Attorney Craig Morford announced Ford's latest indictment in December 2006.

"The people of Tennessee have a right to expect honest services from their public officials," Morford said.

Now, in the case of the USA versus John Ford, federal prosecutors will try to prove allegations in this six-count indictment that Ford failed to disclose that two TennCare contractors -- Doral Dental and Omnicare -- had secretly paid him some $800,000.

The payments, the Memphis Democrat argued before the Senate's ethics committee, were entirely above board.

"For me to sit here and to be accused of violating the ethics rules is beyond me," Ford told the committee.

Among the expected evidence: notes we found in the former senator's desk on the Senate floor in which one of those TennCare contractors was telling him how to vote.

"To see it in black and white is absolutely amazing," Cunningham said.

And jurors will likely see it, as well.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed Williams to testify about those papers that our investigation saved from being trashed.

Also among the new evidence expected during this trial are tapes from wiretaps on Ford's phones.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 5 and for continuing coverage.

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