County Commissioner Justin Ford pleads in domestic assault case

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford pleaded Tuesday to a lesser charge of domestic assault, waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.

Ford was back in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on domestic violence charges. He stood accused of beating and choking his girlfriend outside Church's Chicken in the Medical District in April.

Originally, he was facing aggravated assault, a felony carrying up to 15 years in prison, and was also facing a false imprisonment charge.

“We’re moving forward from it. My family’s ready to move on. The victim’s ready to move on and we’re fixing to enjoy life,” Ford said. “I truly am sorry for anything or any negative light I brought to the constituency.”

Ford took an Alford plea, which is a misdemeanor. The plea means he maintains he’s not guilty but admits the state had sufficient evidence against him.

“Nothing happened that night,” he said.

He was ordered to 11 months and 29 days of probation and anger management classes.

Ford has been cheerful in court since the beginning. He gladly spoke with the media and offered his apologies on Tuesday, but said he doesn't think he needs anger management classes.

“The woman I’m accused of assaulting, I love with all my heart and she was a best friend then and still will be a best friend now,” he said.

Attorney Dewun Settle represented the victim, who was not in court Tuesday. He said he didn’t think she should have to appear in court and he would have filed a motion to quash the subpoena had Ford not pleaded out.

He said victim is “satisfied with the outcome of this case.”

This is the fourth time Ford has been accused of domestic violence in a county where it is a rampant problem.

When asked about the previous accusations, he responded, "You reported first about three other incidents. I’ve never been to jail on domestic violence, never been questioned on domestic violence, and never have I ever hit a woman.”

Ford was elected to serve the county's 9th District in 2010.