Attorney: Former Sen. Ford to plead not guilty on charges

Attorney: Former Sen. Ford to plead not guilty on charges

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The attorney of former Charleston Sen. Robert Ford says his client will plead not guilty this week to charges filed against him relating to his use of campaign funds.

Bill Runyon says Ford will appear before a judge in Columbia on Wednesday afternoon and will ask for a personal recognizance bond, which would allow Ford to leave the courtroom without having to pay a bond.

Ford, who resigned last year during hearings on ethics violations, was indicted on eight counts including one count of misconduct in office, one count of forgery less than $10,000, and six counts under the Ethics Act. Those six include two counts of personal use of campaign funds, two counts of depositing campaign contributions into personal bank accounts, and two counts of false reporting.

Runyon said the Nov. 13 indictments by a Richland County grand jury are the result of sloppy bookkeeping on Ford's part.

"He financed a lot of his campaigns with personal lines of credit and then he would put money into accounts and pay back those lines of credit which were in fact campaign loans, which may or may not have been properly accounted for," Ford's attorney Bill Runyon said.

Collectively, these indictments accuse Ford of obtaining an improper personal benefit from his public office by depositing campaign funds into his personal bank accounts, using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, and then filing false campaign reports and submitting forgeries to the Senate Ethics Committee, according to J. Mark Powell, spokesman for Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Ford says he believes he did nothing wrong, adding he feels someone has a vendetta against him. He would not elaborate on who he says is out to get him.

Runyon says the forgery charges are the result of Ford's attempt to reconstruct financial documents that had been damaged by water.

"The forgery that they are making reference to is a results of him trying to reconstruct some water damaged documents from his checking accounts records and bank records which instead of ordering a new set, he tried to reconstruct it, and that may or may not have been an accurate reconstruction," Runyon said.

Misconduct in office is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The Ethics Act violations are also misdemeanors, carrying a penalty of up to a year in prison and/or a fine of at least $5,000. The forgery charge carries a five-year imprisonment and/or a fine at the discretion of the court.

The investigation was conducted by SLED, Powell said.

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