Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rep. Derrick Smith convicted on corruption charges

Chicago Democratic Rep. Derrick Smith was convicted of accepting a bribe in exchange for official duties.

Smith was caught on tape as part of a federal sting negotiating a $7,000 bribe in exchange for writing a letter of recommendation for a day care center he believed was seeking a $50,000 state grant. The day care center was not actually seeking the grant — instead federal prosecutors used an informant who had been a campaign worker for Smith to broker the deal and deliver the bribe money. Perhaps some of the most damning evidence against Smith was an audio recording of him counting the cash.

Smith was found guilty on one count of bribery and one count of extortion. Both are felonies.

Smith’s lawyers argued that he was not seeking to commit a crime and would not have taken a bribe if the federal informant had not continued to push him in that direction. According to court documents, the informant discussed the bribe with Smith for three months before moving forward with it. “We gave it a good fight,” Smith told reporters after the verdict was handed down. “It’s God’s will. God knows the truth about it all. The jurors just didn’t see what God saw.” Prosecutors say they received information that Smith would be willing to take bribes and argue that it would have been negligent for them not to investigate the claims.

After Smith was arrested in 2012, the House voted to expel him. But he was re-elected and returned to his seat in 2013. Smith, who was defeated in the Democratic primary this year, automatically loses his seat due to the convictions.

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