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CHICAGO (CBS) — State Rep. Derrick Smith has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted a $7,000 bribe and told reporters he’s a victim of overzealous federal authorities.
Smith entered the plea before a judge on Monday morning. He stands indicted on charges of taking the bribe n exchange for his endorsement of what he thought was a daycare center’s state grant application. The daycare center itself was real, but the owner Smith was allegedly trying to help was fake, part of a sting by the FBI.
Smith says the FBI used “shennigans” to build its case and pressure people to “say bad things about me.”
“With the support of my wife and my family, with the guidance of my friends and colleagues in the House and with the representation of my lawyer, I intend to fight these charges,” Smith told reporters at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
On March 2, Smith provided the aide with an official letter of support for the daycare owner to obtain a $50,000 Early Childhood Construction Grant from the state’s Capital Development Board. In return, during a recorded meeting, the aide gave Smith $7,000 in cash, purportedly from the fictional daycare owner, according to federal prosecutors.
Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson, had harsh words for federal agents for not revealing the full criminal background of a government informant when prosecutors asked a judge to allow the informant to wear a wire to record Smith’s conversations.
In addition to the indictment, an Illinois House Panel is considering whether to seek disciplinary action against Smith, such as a formal reprimand or removal from office.
Henderson says Smith will tell the committee he wants to stay in office, despite calls from Gov. Quinn and others that he resign.
Smith won the Democratic primary for re-election to the 10th District last month, a week after he was arrested on the bribery charges, but has not made any public statements since his arrest .
He attended a legislative session in Springfield earlier this month, and accepted handshakes and pats on the back, but did not address the chamber or speak to reporters.