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Judge refuses to delay federal bribery trial for Rep. Derrick Smith

Updated: May 21, 2014 4:39PM

A federal judge has refused to delay state Rep. Derrick Smith’s bribery trial so that Smith can vote on a tax bill in Springfield.

In a blow to House Speaker Mike Madigan’s hopes of passing a tax extension bill with Smith’s support, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, obviously irritated, said Smith “should have known” when the House session would end when his trial was reset for May 28 earlier this year.

Smith’s attorneys had asked Coleman to delay the trial so that he could cast a “yes” vote for the bill, which would make a 2011 tax increase permanent.

But an unimpressed Coleman said Smith’s attempts to delay the trial — which was already reset once in January — were “foreseeable.”

Unhappy that Smith failed to even show up in court Wednesday morning, she also wasn’t buying arguments Smith’s attorney Vic Henderson made about a back injury Smith sustained in a car accident last month.

Noting that Smith hadn’t complained about the injuries at several court hearings since the accident and was only bringing them up a week before the trial was due to start, she added that Smith “can stand, he can do whatever he needs to do to get through the trial.”

And she suggested that Smith’s back pain may have more to do with the stress of the allegations that he took a $7,000 cash bribe to support a grant application than any physical injury.

His symptoms “may even seem real to [him],” she added. “There’s a lot of angst ... as you get close to trial.”

Outside court, Henderson said he had not received any request from Madigan to attempt to delay the trial.

But asked if Madigan had asked Smith to do so, he equivocated.

“I’m not Carnac the Magician [sic], I can’t tell you what’s in somebody else’s mind,” Henderson said.

Had Coleman agreed to the request, Madigan would have had valuable extra time, if he needs it, to round up the necessary votes to pass a tax-extension bill.

The speaker is believed to be well-short of the necessary 60 votes he needs to send the legislation to the Senate.

The 2011 increase in individual and corporate income tax rates is set to roll back in January, creating a potential $4 billion hole in next year’s state budget.

Smith lost his re-election bid last March despite heavy support from Madigan’s political organization.

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