FBI agents say indicted state rep took them to get bribe cash

April 15, 2014

(AP/File)
Indicted Illinois State Rep. Derrick Smith

Federal prosecutors say indicted Illinois State Rep. Derrick Smith took FBI agents to his house and turned over cash he had allegedly taken as a bribe. But Smith’s attorneys are trying to make sure that information does not come up at his pending trial.

Smith was arrested more than two years ago and charged with taking $7,000 in exchange for writing a letter of support for a daycare operator applying for a grant.

In a new court filing, federal prosecutors say Smith repeatedly told FBI agents after he was read his Miranda rights that he “f***ed up” -- and never should’ve written the letter or taken the $7,000.

“Smith stated that it was all about getting money to put money back out on the streets in the hands of his campaign workers,” FBI agents Bryan Butler and Timothy Keese wrote in the report, made public Monday, that is a government exhibit in his court case.

The agents wrote that Smith even took FBI agents to his house and turned over the remaining $2,500 from the alleged $7,000 bribe. Smith, before he was arrested, had already given some money to the campaign worker who had secretly recorded him, as pay for the assistant’s work, and to another individual not identified by FBI agents in their report.

Smith’s defense attorneys say the comments he made to the FBI following his arrest should not be allowed at trial because Smith thought they were part of his plea negotiations.

Prosecutors say Smith made those comments before an attorney entered the room. And even then, they say, the federal prosecutor did not negotiate a plea deal with him.

Smith was appointed to the Illinois House in 2011. The agents write Smith was “going crazy” about a primary challenger he faced in the March 2012 election. They say Smith told them he did not want to lose the election, but needed money to pay campaign workers so they would stay loyal to his campaign.

Smith, who represents parts of Chicago’s West and North sides, defeated Tom Swiss in the 2012 Democratic primary. Other Democrats had encouraged primary voters to support Smith despite his arrest, claiming that Swiss was a Republican running as a Democrat.

After Smith won the primary, Illinois House members voted to expel him from the chamber -- in an act that had not been done in 100 years. But Smith had already won the primary, remained on the ballot and won election back to the state House that November.

Smith, however, will not be returning to Springfield next year. He lost his bid for another term in office to attorney Pamela Reaves-Harris in the Democratic primary last month.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.