CHICAGO (CBS) — A special Illinois House investigative committee has issued a report finding lawmakers have enough evidence to punish state Rep. Derrick Smith, amid allegations he took a $7,000 bribe.
The committee was only empowered to determine if Smith should face discipline over a federal indictment accusing him of accepting a bribe for backing a state grant for a daycare center.
Smith was allegedly caught in a federal sting, accepting a $7,000 cash bribe from a federal informant posing as the owner of the daycare center.
A separate House committee will be tasked with choosing what discipline, if any, that Smith should face – from a simple reprimand to expulsion from the House. If the new panel decides Smith should be punished, a two-thirds majority vote by the full House would be needed to impose that punishment.
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WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson, said the investigative committee rushed to judgment in finding there is enough evidence to punish Smith.
“The committee down in Springfield made its determination without complete information. We encourage them to wait, in order to get all the information before deciding,” he said.
State Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-Elmhurst), who sits on that panel, said the committee could not wait for Smith’s criminal case, given that they have no idea how long it would take.
“Our unanimous decision is based off a thorough review of all the evidence, of all the testimony, of all the exhibits,” Reboletti said. “Waiting any longer was not going to change the decision.”
Members of the committee said they heard transcribed recordings of Smith allegedly accepting $7,000 in cash from a federal informant posing as the owner of a daycare center seeking Smith’s help to obtain a $50,000 state grant.
Furthermore, members of the committee noted Smith didn’t defend himself, choosing to make only a prepared statement to the committee. Henderson answered questions from the panel, but he wouldn’t answer most of those either.
Instead, Henderson accused federal prosecutors of manufacturing evidence against Smith.
State Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who chairs the committee, said Smith’s decision not to testify before the panel under oath aided in their decision that Smith should be punished.
“We’re entitled to infer something from his silence,” she said, noting that the committee has a much lower standard for finding wrongdoing, as determining House disciplinary action is not a criminal proceeding.
Henderson blamed federal prosecutors for not revealing all of their evidence in the case against Smith.
“If you’re 100 percent strong in your convictions about your case, then there’s no reason to not release the information,” he said. “All they know is what the government has alleged.”
Henderson said he’s still fighting in court for the government to release more information about the case, and he’s confident Smith will be acquitted.
Smith was arrested on the bribery charge just before the primary election in March. Despite his arrest, Democratic leaders encouraged voters to support Smith because his primary opponent was a former Republican party official.
After Smith won the primary, Democratic leaders urged him to resign, but he has refused.
Democratic leaders have selected attorney Lance Tyson to run against Smith under the banner of the “10th District Unity Party,” formed by Democratic bosses after Smith refused to step down. Tyson must submit 1,500 petition signatures to get on the ballot as a third-party candidate.