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Former Capitol Hill lobbyist pardoned as Haslam leaves office

Peabody Ledford Clip.jpg
Posted at 12:30 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 13:30:35-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former Capitol Hill lobbyist, implicated in an effort to bribe a state senator who is now Tennessee's lieutenant governor, was among 20 people pardoned by Gov. Bill Haslam, the governor's office announced Friday.

David (Peabody) Ledford pleaded guilty in 1991 to offering bribes to current Lt. Gov. Randy McNally as part of an FBI-TBI investigation code-named "Operation Rocky Top." McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican who was then a freshman state senator, was secretly working with the FBI and wearing a wire to help root out corruption in state government.

McNally tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he wrote a letter in support of the 79-year-old Ledford's bid for a pardon.

"What he did was wrong, but he has turned his life around," McNally said.

Ledford's conviction stemmed from two bribes offered to McNally during the 1988 legislative session to halt bills restricting the activities of solid waste management companies and what was then a multimillion-dollar charity bingo industry.

A former state representative, Ledford was unknowing hired by an undercover FBI agent as part of Operation Rocky Top.

In its announcement, the governor's office said that Ledford "has since made positive contributions in the Roane County community and received a positive recommendation from the Tennessee Board of Parole."

Altogether, Haslam granted executive clemency to 23 current or former Tennesseans in the last round of actions as he prepares to leave office. In addition to the 20 pardons, three others had their sentences commuted to lesser sentences.

“These individuals receiving pardons have made positive contributions to their communities and are worthy of the forgiveness that may help them restore their rights or obtain employment," Haslam said in a statement.

"Those receiving commutations will gain another chance to become contributing members of society. Clemency requires attempting to balance mercy and justice, and my legal team and I have taken this responsibility seriously during a thorough review of many cases.”