Derrick Smith found guilty in bribery case

Derrick Smith found guilty in bribery case

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - State Rep. Derrick Smith has been found guilty of bribery and attempted extortion by a federal jury.

Smith's west side headquarters was closed Tuesday afternoon, the shades drawn.

His constituents had mixed reactions to his bribery and extortion convictions.

“It's pay to play everywhere. But especially Illinois. But, I think he got railroaded, that was it, that's all,” said 10th district resident Matthew Johnson.

“I can't say he let me down. I think he let himself down, if this is true,” said Barbara Williams.

The West Side Democrat became the latest in a depressingly long line of Chicago politicians to be convicted of a public corruption offense.

Jurors deliberated for four hours before finding the 50-year-old guilty of shaking down a day care business for a $7,000 bribe in return for his writing a letter of support for a state grant application.

He faces up to 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced later this year, though a far shorter sentence is likely.

The verdict on Tuesday has long seemed the inevitable conclusion to the drawn-out case. Prosecutors announced in early 2012 that an informant had secretly taped Smith as he accepted the bribe, and Smith also handed back $2,500 of the bribe that he’d stashed in his bedroom and admitted to the FBI following his arrest that he had “f----- up,” trial testimony showed.

Despite that, voters re-elected him in 2012 — even after he’d become the first member in a century to be tossed out of the Illinois House by his fellow legislators.

Finally defeated in a primary earlier this year, he was serving out his lame duck term but will now be booted out of office for a second time.

Smith had built his defense around attacking the government mole who recorded him discussing the bribe, which he referred to as “cheddar.”

The mole, a campaign worker the FBI paid to set Smith up in a sting operation, spent three months discussing the bribe with Smith before he finally collected the cash in seven stacks of $1,000 in March 2012.

During closing arguments Monday, Smith’s attorney, Vic Henderson, suggested Smith was entrapped, alleging the entire scheme was “the government’s plan,” not Smith’s.

And in a risky move, Henderson asked jurors if they thought Smith was dumb enough to have confessed to the FBI without his lawyer in the room, as the FBI alleged.

“If he really took a bribe, don’t you think he’d be smart enough to keep his mouth shut?,” Henderson asked.

The jury evidently decided he wasn’t.

Prosecutor Marsha McClellan said 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.

Now a convicted felon, Smith will still retain his seat in the General Assembly until a final judgment regarding his conviction is entered when he is sentenced later this year. Nine committeemen whose wards make up the 10th district will then choose a successor. One likely candidate is Democrat Pamela Reaves-Harris, who is running in November to replace him.

Smith spoke briefly after the jury's verdict.

“It's god's word, god knows the truth about it all, and the jurors just didn't see what God saw,” said Smith.

“We collected the evidence, we presented it to a jury, and the jury decided he was a corrupt public official,” said 1st Asst. U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro.

“As we stand here now, we respect the legal process, we respect the jury's decision, we just disagree with it,” said Defense Attorney Victor Henderson.

Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said she won't set a sentencing date until after she's heard pretrial motions, so Smith remains out on bond. He'll be back in court in late September.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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