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Two days after being sworn in to fourth term last week, state Rep. LaShawn Ford was back in court for a preliminary status hearing in his federal bank fraud case.
His attorneys, however, expressed confidence in their case after leaving the Dirksen federal courthouse in downtown Chicago on Jan. 11. Ford was arraigned at that same courthouse a month earlier, Dec. 11, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Ford's attorney, Tom Durkin, said they are confident after reviewing discovery materials from the U.S. prosecutor's case. The lawyers received those materials two weeks ago on two CD-ROMs (digital documents), which Ford's attorneys called "voluminous."
"We are very confident. We've gotten discovery [and] there is quite a bit to review," Durkin said, speaking to reporters after Friday's brief, 10-minute hearing.
"Everything that I have reviewed so far is favorable from what I can tell," Durkin added. "Beyond that I really can't comment because I haven't read all of it."
Presiding Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer set a pretrial motion date for March 15, and a second status hearing for April 3. Durkin told reporters that the judge gave them extra time because he's trying another federal case in San Diego.
On Nov. 29, Ford was charged in a 17-count indictment by the U.S. Justice Department. Federal prosecutors allege Ford fraudulently obtained a $500,000 increase, as well as a two-year extension, on a line of credit from the now-defunct ShoreBank in 2006. ShoreBank was shut down by federal regulators in 2010. Most of its assets and deposits were acquired from the FDIC by the newly-formed Urban Partnership Bank.
The indictment alleges Ford obtained multiple cash advances by making false statements about his intended use for the funds — Ford was in the real estate and home renovation business on the West Side.
According to the indictment, Ford allegedly diverted funds toward personal use — car loans, credit cards, other mortgages owed by ShoreBank and a Hammond casino bill. The feds also allege he used the funds to run his '06 campaign for state rep.
Ford vehemently denies the charges, has maintained his innocence throughout and insists those funds were used to rehab properties on the West Side. Ford insists he did not pocket any of that money. Last Friday's hearing was with his attorneys only, unlike at his December arraignment where throngs of supporters packed Judge Pallmeyer's courtroom.
This second court appearance came two days after he was sworn into office Jan. 9 for a fourth term representing the 8th District, which now extends from the city's West Side to parts of Brookfield, LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Springs. Ford did not take questions from the media after the hearing.
In a press release, Ford vowed to continue his work in the community, including strengthening small businesses, as well as making a recommendation on laws regarding conceal and carry of firearms. Ford also plans to push for parity for ex-offenders returning to society and strengthen minority contracts.
"My fourth term brings great opportunities to strengthen the relationships and coalitions that have been built as we address the problems that families face everyday," he said in his press release.