Indicted state rep. ‘innocent,’ won’t step down: attorney
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters April 10, 2012 10:32AM
State representative Derrick Smith leaves the Federal Building after his arraignment Tuesday March 13, 2012. Federal agents arrested Smith today on a federal bribery charge for allegedly accepting a $7,000 cash bribe to write an official letter of support for a daycare center that he believed was seeking a state grant, federal authorities announced. The 48-year-old Smith, who represents the 10th District on the West Side, was charged with one count of accepting a bribe. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:11AM
The criminally-charged State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) is digging in.
The lawmaker, through an attorney, said Tuesday he would not step down from his post and is pushing back against the charge, lodging allegations against the FBI. Smith’s resistance came on the same day he was formally indicted by a federal grand jury and on the same day Democratic leaders renewed a call for his resignation.
“He’s going to plead not guilty, there’s no vacillation about that,” said Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson. “He has no plans to resign. He’s going to vigorously fight the charge.”
Smith is mounting a defense that included at “least one affidavit” from a supporter who said the FBI used “trickery” in its probe of Smith, Henderson said.
“We have gotten word that the FBI was on the West Side of Chicago enticing citizens to say untrue things about Derrick Smith,” Henderson said.
FBI spokesman Ross Rice said the proper place to make any allegations involving the case was in court.
The grand jury indicted Smith on one count of allegedly taking a $7,000 cash bribe in exchange for his letter of support for a daycare center that sought a $50,000 state grant. Smith had been charged in a criminal complaint and was arrested March 13 — just a week before the primary election. He was nonetheless voted in for another term, winning 77 percent of the vote.
The indictment means Smith now faces trial in the downtown federal courthouse.
On Tuesday, influential West Side committeeman, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) demanded Smith either “get back to work” or step down to devote his full attention to the federal bribery charge. He joins other criminally charged politicians who refused to immediately step down, including Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who is holding fund-raisers to pay for his defense, and convicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and then booted from office.
At a news conference at City Hall, Ervin said it was “totally unacceptable” for Smith to stay at home and collect his state paycheck — and miss 150 votes — at a time when billions of dollars in decisions impacting pension and budget issues are being decided in Springfield.
“Either go back to work or step down,” said Ervin, who is among those ward bosses who would choose Smith’s replacement.
Henderson’s response on the calls for his clients to step down:“It’s an absolute travesty. That’s everything that’s wrong with Springfield. The law of the land is you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. He intends to plead not guilty and he’s innocent.”
Democratic leaders — including Gov. Pat Quinn and Secretary of State Jesse White, Smith’s political mentor and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — have also urged Smith to step down.
A legislative committee is investigating the charges against Smith.
“Basically, if he doesn’t resign, I think the odds are he’ll be expelled from the Legislature,” Quinn told reporters in Chicago Tuesday.
Contributing: Dave McKinney