It’s not likely that the Tennessee lawmakers who were arrested Thursday in a sweeping federal corruption sting could successfully argue they were targets of selective enforcement, a legal defense that carries a heavy burden of proof, experts told the Tennessean. To be successful with that defense, attorneys for the four legislators, a former legislator, a lobbyist and a political operative would have to show they were targeted because of some type of discrimination and that law enforcement overlooked other lawbreakers because of that.
The people arrested in the FBI sting involved two whites and five African-Americans. One was a Republican, and five were Democrats, while the other’s party affiliation is not known. The legislators and former senator each were accused of taking thousands of dollars from a dummy corporation in exchange for legislative action. The federal sting, known as Operation Tennessee Waltz, snared state Sen. John Ford, a Memphis Democrat who is part of a political dynasty in the state. Ford, who resigned, has been indicted on charges that he accepted $55,000 in bribes from a phony firm, E-Cycle Management, seeking state computer recycling business. Lt. Gov. John Wilder has criticized the FBI’s tactics. Supporters in Ford’s Memphis district have suggested there was wrongful targeting in the operation. “Everybody does it. They just got caught,” said Chirlane Murray, 27. “He got charged because he’s black.”