State Rep. Derrick Smith has been found guilty of bribery and attempted extortion by a federal jury today, the Chicago Sun Times reported. Smith was arrested by federal agents for accepting a $7000 cash bribe in early 2012, and today's conviction is the culmination of that arrest. The charge was that in exchange for a $50000 grant, Smith would receive a $7000 cash bribe that was paid to Smith.
The Chicago Tribune said that Smith's lawyer, Victor Henderson, fought hard for his client. Henderson said Smith was guilty only of "bad judgment" in trusting a campaign worker -- identified in court only as "Pete." Henderson also hammered the FBI. "(Smith) wasn't going to commit a crime -- that was something they fabricated," Henderson said as he pointed to the prosecution table. "There was no crime here, ladies and gentlemen, and to the extent there was anything that looked like one, it was fabricated and it was a ruse."
The bribe was given to Smith by a man name “Pete,” a man that did not appear in court during the trial. Henderson sounded a "where's Pete?" theme throughout his closing argument. “Pete” was never called as a witness by prosecutors, said the Chicago Tribune, and his identity has never been revealed publicly -- unusual for a public corruption case.
The Democratic Illinois state representative from the west side of Chicago, is the just the latest in a long, long line of Chicago politicians to be convicted of a public corruption. The Sun Times said that the jurors deliberated for only four hours before finding the 50-year-old guilty on two counts for accepting a $7,000 bribe in return for his writing a letter of support for a state grant application.
He could face as many as 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced later this year, though the Sun Times says the sentence could be far shorter sentence.
Despite the indictment in the spring of 2012, Smith still won re-election. Smith received 77% of the vote in that election in 2012. Smith defeated Tom Swiss, who some accused of being a Republican and posing on billboards as an African-American, although Swiss is white. Democrats helped Smith during that election because Swiss wasn't their guy.
Smith won the election, in spite of the fact that he’d become the first member in a century to be tossed out of the Illinois House by his fellow legislators. However, he lost his seat this year, so would have not returned. He will be booted out of office for a second time, which may be some kind of record. Under state law, Smith automatically loses his legislative seat with his conviction on felony counts of bribery and extortion, said the Chicago Tribune.
The U.S. Federal prosecutor, Marsha McClellan, said on Monday that Smith took the bribe "because it was easy and because he could." Smith had "two faces," she said: the clean one he showed the public, and the dirty one he used behind closed doors.
Chicago Sun Times - State Rep. Derrick Smith found guilty in bribery trial
Chicago Tribune - State Rep. Derrick Smith convicted of accepting $7,000 bribe