By Terry Dean
One day after being indicted by federal authorities for allegedly committing bank fraud, state Rep. LaShawn Ford said he would introduce a resolution in the General Assembly asking his fellow lawmakers not to pass judgment on him.
Ford's House resolution asks his colleagues to remain neutral regarding the charges and to allow him to continue his duties as a legislator, according to a press release from his office Friday morning.
"I hope that my constituents will continue to accept me as their state representative," Ford said in the release.
His House resolution stresses to fellow members that the charges brought against him are of a "personal nature," are unrelated to his work as a lawmaker and do not involve any abuses in that role or violates his oath as an office holder. In his press release, Ford reiterated that he believes he is innocent of the charges and "that his whole record of service should be considered" by fellow lawmakers who might be reluctant to work with him.
Ford added that he will not talk about the indictment or the charges any more with the media but instead about the issues facing the state.
"I look forward to working with the media to shed light on the needs, challenges and opportunities to improve the lives of the people of the 8th District and the state of Illinois," Ford said.
The incumbent state rep, however, will not have trouble legislating in Springfield, Illinois political experts say.
And state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) says she will continue to work with Ford, adding that she believes other lawmakers will, too. She also stressed that Ford is innocent until proven guilty.
"I've always known LaShawn Ford to be a legislator who is always on task and focused, and I don't know why this would prevent that from being the case going forward," she said. "I definitely look forward to working with Rep. Ford in the future."
University of Illinois-Springfield professors of political science Christopher Mooney and Kent Redfield said they expected most of Ford's colleagues in the Illinois House of Representatives to feel the same as Lightford. Both men drew a clear distinction between Ford and recently indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith (10th).
"The parallels will be drawn immediately, but the cases are really different and the people involved are very different," Mooney said.
Smith was indicted in April for allegedly accepting a bribe from an FBI informant in exchange for a political favor, while Ford's indictment stems from fraudulent statements federal prosecutors say he made to obtain a bank loan and improper use of those funds after he got them. The charges are regarding actions that occurred before Ford became a state representative.
Redfield, Mooney and Lightford say that makes all the difference.
"This … has nothing to do with his work as a legislator," said Lightford, whose Senate district includes the entire 8th House district.
AustinTalks.org, an online news site covering the Austin community, contributed to this report.