Illinois State Representative LaShawn Ford pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges Tuesday, in front of a packed courtroom filled with dozens of his supporters.
The atmosphere outside Ford's arraignment was quite unusual compared to most proceedings in the Dirksen federal building. People lined the hallways by the elevators, clapping and cheering Ford on as if he were about to speak at a campaign event. By the time Ford made his way to the press pit, he seemed a little emotional.
"To speak to the show of support, I love all my family and friends there," Ford said. "They came because they wanted to, not because I asked them to."
Supporters sent out press releases last week asking people to gather at the courthouse for the arraignment.
Ford faces eight counts of bank fraud and nine counts of submitting false information to the bank. Prosecutors allege the Chicago Democrat fraudulently obtained a $500,000 increase and a two-year extension of credit from the failed Shore bank in Chicago. Authorities say he used the money for personal expenses, like car loans and credit card payments, rather than toward his real-estate business.
Ford did not make any comments on his case. His lawyer, Thomas Durkin, called the charges "unfounded."
"If somebody like this can get run out of office because of some charge like this then we're in worse shape than I even thought," Durkin said.