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State Rep. LaShawn Ford pleads not guilty in court

State Rep. LaShawn Ford as he leaves Federal Building after pleading not guilty bank fraud charges. Tuesday December 11 2012.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford as he leaves the Federal Building after pleading not guilty to bank fraud charges. Tuesday, December 11, 2012. I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:19AM

State Rep. LaShawn Ford pleaded not guilty to bank fraud charges Tuesday morning as he made his first appearance in federal court in front of dozens of supporters.

Ford — charged with 17 counts of bank fraud — was backed by almost 40 supporters, who cheered him after Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer allowed him to remain free on a recognizance bond.

“I love all my friends and family,” a visibly moved Ford said in the courthouse lobby.

Since his indictment last month, Ford has strenuously denied lying to extend a line of credit from the failed Shorebank. During a brief hearing Tuesday he spoke only to enter a not guilty plea and to confirm that he understands he faces up to 30 years behind bars if convicted.

The judge allowed him to miss his next court date next month, so that he can attend to his duties in Springfield, where he faces an uncertain reception.

Speaking outside court, Ford’s attorney Thomas Durkin stressed that the charges are related to Ford’s real estate business and have nothing to do with his public office. He questioned why an “African-American, popular legislator” was the only person prosecuted in connection with the failed bank.

“If somebody like this can get run out of office because of some charge like this, we’re in worse shape than I even thought,” he said.

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