8/4/14: Carol Marin reports on a plea deal for legislator Lashawn Ford that led to something that rarely happens. The Feds dropped charges against a politician and he copped to a misdemeanor.
Federal prosecutors on Monday dropped all felony bank fraud charges against state Rep. LaShawn Ford. He pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor income tax charge violation.
The tax violation was from 2007. Ford, a West Side Democrat, over-reported the cost of rehab work to a property on the 5700 block of West Erie Street, resulting in a tax savings of $3,782.
The penalty is a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Dropping all felony charges is something the Feds virtually never do.
Ford was indicted on November 29, 2012, charged by the federal government with 17 counts of bank fraud.
Ford secured a $1.5 million line of credit from the ShoreBank to rehab property on the west side but instead used some of the money to pay off a car loan and gambling bills among other personal items, the government contended.
At Ford’s arraignment, supporters jammed the Dirksen Federal building in a show of support of the three term member of the legislature.
Ford has maintained he was innocent of all charges.
"I know as an African-American male that you can find trouble even when you are not looking for it. And that is something that has found me," he said during a May interview. "My indictment is not something that I expected, ever."
Ford’s attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, argued in a court filing that Ford was targeted by the government as an African-American elected official, noting he was the only person charged "despite the existence of many similarly-situated ShoreBank customers."
Durkin added that many of those customers were white.
In an interview more than a year ago on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon strongly denied there was an attempt to focus solely on Ford.
"But we set the bar high in terms of what we require before we pull the trigger on an indictment. But in terms of the integrity of that process I have no compunction and no concern," said Fardon.
Ford’s trial was to start in a few weeks.