Politics

La Shawn Ford asks IL House to 'remain neutral'

Friday, November 30, 2012

Illinois House Representatives La Shawn Ford and Derrick Smith both face indictments, but the charges against them and the reaction they're receiving from fellow lawmakers are significantly different.

"Seems to be a pattern of our elected officials-- our black elected officials on the West Side and Chicago, in general, are being attacked, and when you come to La Shawn Ford, that's hitting at our heart. That's a very low blow," Melissa Williams said.

Ford allegedly lied about his income in 2006 in order to get a $1.5 million line of credit at Shorebank, a bank that was seized by federal regulators two years ago. Ford had a real estate firm then, and was to use the money for rehabbing properties.

Prosecutors say that Ford used some of the line-of-credit money to pay personal expenses. He faces bank fraud charges.

"The best way to handle this is in court, but I want to tell you that I'm an innocent man, that I'm a man of integrity. The U.S. attorney has a job to do and so do I, Ford said.

Ford has asked his fellow legislators to "remain neutral" on the charges against him, and take no punitive action.

Fellow West Side State Rep Derrick Smith was expelled by his House colleagues in August for allegedly taking a bribe. Despite the federal case against him, Smith was elected and is headed back to Springfield.

Unlike the Smith case, the Ford indictment does not allege he misused the power of his office. And Ford's supporters sought to make clear Friday that they stand with him.

"He's a 40-year-old man in the prime of his life - an exemplary citizen - a role model desperately needed in Austin. He is a good man," the Rev. Ira Acree said.

It is highly unlikely that Ford's fellow House members would move to punish him, as they did with Smith.

State Rep Lou Lang, one of the leaders in the vote to expel Smith, says there are "significant" differences in the two cases: Smith stands accused of abusing the power of his office and declining to answer questions from legislators; and the charges against Ford involve a timeframe before he was elected to the House, and he's directly denied any wrongdoing.

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