WBEZ | bribery http://www.wbez.org/tags/bribery Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Jury Convicts ex-Chicago Official in Red-Light Camera Case http://www.wbez.org/news/jury-convicts-ex-chicago-official-red-light-camera-case-114622 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/redlight.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>CHICAGO&nbsp;(AP) &mdash; A federal jury convicted a former&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;transportation official on Tuesday for taking bribes to steer $100 million in red-light camera contracts to a Phoenix company.</p><p>Jurors returned with guilty verdicts on all 20 counts against John Bills, the former second-in-command at&nbsp;Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;Department of Transportation. Bills was accused of accepting envelopes stuffed with cash, along with gifts &mdash; including condos in two states and a Mercedes &mdash; to help Redflex Traffic Systems obtain contracts in a decade-long scheme.</p><p>During closing arguments Monday, U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon detailed hotels stays, golf trips, an Arizona condominium, a&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;apartment and a Mercedes given to Bills for his efforts.</p><p>Defense attorney Nishay Sanan told jurors in his closing arguments that the money actually went to &quot;lobbyists who funneled it upstairs,&quot; tossing out names including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan,&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Mayor Rahm Emanuel and&nbsp;ChicagoAlderman Edward Burke, the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Tribune reported.</p><p>&quot;You don&#39;t give that kind of money to a guy like John Bills. You give it to people who can get things done,&quot; Sanan told jurors, who began deliberating Monday.</p><p>No elected officials have been implicated by prosecutors in the scheme. Fardon called Sanan&#39;s contention &quot;malarkey,&quot; and prosecutors showed emails in which Bills described his efforts for Redflex.</p><p>&quot;The idea that lobbyists were paid to funnel money to people like Mike Madigan and Ed Burke and Rahm Emanuel is pretty grandiose, but there is not one single shred of evidence that supports any of it,&quot; Fardon said.</p><p>Martin O&#39;Malley, who was hired as a Redflex consultant, testified that he passed envelopes stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash at a time to Bills at a restaurant. O&#39;Malley has pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme.</p><p>&quot;Sometimes there would be other people there with us, but they couldn&#39;t tell what was happening,&quot; O&#39;Malley told jurors during the trial.</p><p>O&#39;Malley said he collected about $2 million in bogus commissions during the 10-year conspiracy. He said Redflex paid him a commission every time a new camera system was installed in&nbsp;Chicago.</p><p>Former Redflex executive Karen Finley also has pleaded guilty to related charges. She is scheduled for sentencing this year.</p><p>Emanuel canceled Redflex&#39;s contract in 2013 following the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Tribune&#39;s reports about the alleged bribery scheme. Bills retired from his job as&nbsp;Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;managing deputy commissioner of transportation in 2011. He was charged in 2014.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/jury-convicts-ex-chicago-official-red-light-camera-case-114622 Authorities probing ex-Chicago schools CEO's Detroit tenure http://www.wbez.org/news/authorities-probing-ex-chicago-schools-ceos-detroit-tenure-113354 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Newly appointed Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, takes questions with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, in Chicago. AP M. Spencer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Detroit Public Schools says authorities are investigating contracts awarded by a former official <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-schools-chief-pleads-guilty-federal-corruption-scandal-113318" target="_blank">who has pleaded guilty to her role in a kickback scheme </a>while she was CEO of&nbsp;Chicago&#39;s&nbsp;school system.</p><div><p>Barbara Byrd-Bennett was chief academic and accountability auditor for Detroit schools before going to work in&nbsp;Chicago.</p><p>She pleaded guilty this week to helping steer $23 million in no-bid contracts to education firms for $2.3 million in kickbacks and bribes while at&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;Public Schools.</p><p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://bit.ly/1LmDg2v" target="_blank">Chicago&nbsp;Sun-Times reports</a> that during Byrd-Bennett&#39;s tenure in Detroit the district awarded contracts worth about $3.4 million to Synesi Associates, one of the companies named in the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;indictment along with its co-owners.</p><p>DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski says the district is cooperating with law enforcement and conducting its own internal investigation.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 15 Oct 2015 12:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/authorities-probing-ex-chicago-schools-ceos-detroit-tenure-113354 Ex-Chicago schools chief pleads guilty in federal corruption scandal http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-schools-chief-pleads-guilty-federal-corruption-scandal-113318 <p><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Barbara%20Byrd-Bennett%20002%20By%20Bill%20Healy%20_0.JPG" style="height: 450px; width: 299px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: left;" title="Barbara Byrd-Bennett. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)" />Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s last hand-picked schools chief plead guilty to wire fraud in federal court Tuesday before <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-head-chicago-schools-pleads-guilty-kickbacks-scheme-113306">apologizing</a> to the children, teachers and families of Chicago.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I am terribly sorry,&rdquo; Barbara Byrd-Bennett said after her arraignment at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. &ldquo;They <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=30&amp;v=c_Jm7r9EdL8">deserved much more</a>. Much more than I gave to them.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Byrd-Bennett, 66, admitted to steering $23 million in Chicago Public Schools no-bid contracts to her former employer, a company called SUPES Academy. In return, she expected to get 10 percent of those contracts in the form of a signing bonus when she retired from the district&rsquo;s top job.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>After entering a guilty plea, Byrd-Bennett kissed and hugged her husband and daughter and left the courtroom.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A sentencing hearing is scheduled for the end of January, but a plea agreement signed by Byrd- Bennett outlines how much prison time she could get under federal sentencing guidelines.&nbsp;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/284828017/Byrd-Bennett-Plea-Agreement?secret_password=eC4Z46Uy0fZsdzH7036k" style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;" title="View Byrd-Bennett Plea Agreement on Scribd">Byrd-Bennett Plea Agreement</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_39252" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/284828017/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="540"></iframe></p><p>If Byrd-Bennett cooperates with the investigation, prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence of about seven to nine years, which is below those sentencing guidelines. Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s attorneys would be free to ask for an even shorter sentence -- but the decision is ultimately up to U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang. Judge Chang will not be restricted by the plea agreement Byrd-Bennett reached Tuesday with prosecutors.</p><p>The two owners of SUPES Academy, Gary Solomon, 47, and Thomas Vranas, 34, and one of its subsidiaries, Synesi Associates, have also been charged with mail and wire fraud, as well as bribery and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.</p><p>Solomon and Vranas are scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.</p><p><strong>The indictment</strong></p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-public-schools-leader-charged-corruption-113246">indictment, released last Thursday</a>, outlines how Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and Vranas brazenly communicated over email about how she would steer contracts to their companies. In return, the men would put aside 10 percent of the contracts&rsquo; value into a pair of trusts under the names of two of her relatives, likely her twin grandsons.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Newly%20appointed%20Chicago%20Public%20Schools%20CEO%20Barbara%20Byrd-Bennett%2C%20takes%20questions%20with%20Chicago%20Mayor%20Rahm%20Emanuel%20at%20a%20news%20conference%2C%20Friday%2C%20Oct.%2012%2C%202012%2C%20in%20Chicago.%20AP%20M.%20Spencer.jpg" style="height: 388px; width: 250px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="In this Oct. 12, 2012 file photo, former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett looks over Mayor Rahm Emanuel's shoulder at a news conference in Chicago. The former CEO has been indicted on corruption charges following a federal investigation into a $20 million no-bid contract. Bennett was indicted Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, nearly four months after she resigned amid an investigation into the contract between the district and SUPES Academy, a training academy where she once worked as a consultant. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)" />One email from Byrd-Bennett to Solomon states: &ldquo;I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit. (:&rdquo;</p><p>Another email from Solomon to Byrd-Bennett explained how the money would be paid out as a &ldquo;signing bonus&rdquo; when she retired from CPS. He wrote, &ldquo;If you only join (SUPES Academy) for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day.&rdquo;</p><p>The largest of three contracts SUPES Academy held with CPS was approved unanimously, on a no-bid basis, just one month after the mayoral-appointed Board of Education voted to shut down 50 public schools in the city.</p><p>Questions about Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s ties to the company awarded a no-bid contract to train school principals were <a href="http://catalyst-chicago.org/2013/07/20-million-no-bid-contract-raises-questions-about-supes-academy/">first raised by Catalyst Chicago&rsquo;s Sarah Karp</a>. Catalyst&rsquo;s story pointed out that many other non-profit organizations and local universities did similar work in the past; Karp also reported on complaints from principals who felt the SUPES trainings were a waste of time.</p><p>Mayor Emanuel and his hand-picked school board did nothing when those stories broke in 2013 -- and now he&rsquo;s taking a lot of heat for failing to look into concerns, or take action. On Monday, Emanuel admitted that his office was aware of the $20.5 million no-bid contract with SUPES, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-byrd-bennett-let-down-parents-teachers-and-students-113305">did ask &ldquo;hard questions.&rdquo;</a></p><p>Outside the courthouse, before Byrd-Bennett&rsquo;s arraignment Tuesday, a group of protesters and local lawmakers reiterated a call for Chicago to have an elected school board, not one appointed by the mayor.</p><p>&ldquo;I was appalled,&rdquo; said State Rep. Robert Martwick (D-19). &ldquo;I have never seen such blatant, overt, shameless corruption, ever.&rdquo;</p><p>Martwick is sponsoring a bill in Springfield that would change the governance structure of the Chicago Board of Education, giving citizens the ability to elect people to its members. But he said the scandal is not the reason the city should have an elected school board.</p><p>&ldquo;Corruption can occur whether it&rsquo;s elected or appointed,&rdquo; Martwick said. &ldquo;It serves to shine a light on the fact that it&rsquo;s the culture that we&rsquo;ve had there, where they&rsquo;re unaccountable, that led to this.&rdquo;</p><p>Pamela Johnson, a nurse who came out to support the idea of an elected school board, said she thinks the &ldquo;20-year experiment&rdquo; of having the mayor control the schools has been a &ldquo;flat-out failure.&rdquo; She also said she&rsquo;s not convinced the mayor didn&rsquo;t know what was going on.</p><p>&ldquo;You appoint your cronies, and you know, nobody looks,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;Nobody looks under the carpet to find all the dead roaches. You just kinda vacuum the carpet.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel did not have any public appearances scheduled Tuesday. Mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn released a statement saying the corruption scandal &ldquo;continues to be a matter for the courts.&rdquo; And CPS officials said the district has put steps in place to make sure another Byrd-Bennett type scandal never happens again.</p><p><strong>Avoiding another Byrd-Bennett scandal&nbsp;</strong></p><p>In a letter addressed to Ald. Will Burns (4th), schools chief Forrest Claypool and Board President Frank Clark said their objective is &ldquo;to ensure that every possible dollar reaches our classrooms, and to assure taxpayers that their resources are being used wisely.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the letter, which CPS sent to City Hall reporters, the district brought in the private consulting firm Accenture last June to conduct a &ldquo;third-party review&rdquo; of the sole-source contracting process.</p><p><a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/284828018/10-13-15-Will-Burns-Letter?secret_password=2mhllULjDjlzmEKNHIPv" style="font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;" title="View 10.13.15 Will Burns Letter on Scribd">Letter to Alderman Will Burns, 10-13-15</a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_85055" scrolling="no" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/284828018/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="540"></iframe></p><p>CPS officials said they have already adopted several of the firm&rsquo;s recommendations, including publishing sole and single-source contracts online &ldquo;to create transparency&rdquo; and to alert other possible vendors.</p><p>The letter states that over the last few months, CPS has undertaken a &ldquo;top to bottom audit that may also result in further policy changes if deemed necessary for transparency and to ensure that all the right checks and balances are in place.&rdquo;</p><p>District officials indicated more changes could be on the way, like adding a requirement that requestors of single or sole source contracts share any past or present business or personal relationships with the vendor.</p><p>The letter states that the City&rsquo;s Inspector General Joe Ferguson and the Commissioner of the Department of Procurement Services will share their reform ideas with the district, as well.</p><p>Burns, who chairs the City Council committee on education, said he requested this information, and will continue to ask for updates. He said these details are an important part of aldermen&rsquo;s interest in &ldquo;making sure CPS does what it&rsquo;s supposed to do with our dollars and we begin the process of restoring the public&rsquo;s faith in CPS.&rdquo;</p><p>He noted that restoring that faith is especially important as CPS looks to Springfield to fill a $500-million budget hole.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/robertwildeboer?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor" target="_blank">Rob Wildeboer</a> contributed to this story.</em><br /><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. </em><em>Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor"><em>@wbezeducation</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. &nbsp;Follow her </em><a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian"><em>@laurenchooljian</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 13 Oct 2015 14:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-schools-chief-pleads-guilty-federal-corruption-scandal-113318 Feinstein continues defense of CIA torture report http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-12-15/feinstein-continues-defense-cia-torture-report-111232 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP620596710376.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee continue to defend the release of the CIA torture report. Alfred McCoy, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, joins us to discuss the fallout from last week&#39;s disclosures.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-feinstein-defends-release-of-cia-torture/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-feinstein-defends-release-of-cia-torture.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-feinstein-defends-release-of-cia-torture" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Feinstein continues defense of CIA torture report" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 10:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-12-15/feinstein-continues-defense-cia-torture-report-111232 Attorneys debate use of 'pimping' in bribery trial of Illinois lawmaker http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-debate-use-pimping-bribery-trial-illinois-lawmaker-109404 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/derrick smith (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As they prepare for the trial of an Illinois state representative accused of taking a bribe, attorneys are debating the use of the politician&rsquo;s racy language as evidence.</p><p>Federal prosecutors say they have Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, on tape asking for $7,000 in cash in exchange for backing a grant application. Smith&rsquo;s defense attorneys say Smith was entrapped by the campaign worker who recorded him.</p><p>The representative&rsquo;s trial is scheduled to begin next month. Attorneys were in court Wednesday to go over some details about the case.</p><p>In one instance, Smith&rsquo;s attorneys want to ban from the trial a recording in which they say Smith used the word &ldquo;pimping&rdquo; when describing his job duties in the legislature. They say the comment is unrelated to the charges.</p><p>Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said the word can have various meanings. Prosecutors jokingly said it can even refer to something good, such as on the MTV show &ldquo;Pimp My Ride.&rdquo;</p><p>The judge is expected to rule on that and other legal issues by the end of the week.</p><p>Smith was expelled from the state House of Representatives by his fellow lawmakers in August 2012, after his bribery indictment. But voters in his district on Chicago&rsquo;s West and Near North Sides voted him back into office that November.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 15:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-debate-use-pimping-bribery-trial-illinois-lawmaker-109404 Former Cook County Commissioner Moreno pleads guilty in variety of bribery schemes http://www.wbez.org/news/former-cook-county-commissioner-moreno-pleads-guilty-variety-bribery-schemes-107920 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Federal Court Building Chicago_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-3ac5129a-9cc2-ec0f-d676-32fb729ff1a5">Former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno pleaded guilty to a variety of bribery schemes in federal court in Chicago Monday.</p><p dir="ltr">In his guilty plea Moreno admitted that he used his position on the Cook County board to force a company with a county contract to subcontract some of the work to a company called Chicago Medical Equipment and Supply, which was owned by Moreno&rsquo;s friend Ron Garcia. Garcia was paying part of the profits from the deal back to Moreno.Then in an effort to cover up the kickbacks Moreno wrote up fake invoices for legal work that he never performed.</p><p>Moreno also pleaded guilty to trying to push the Cook County hospital system to buy thousands of bandages from a company that was going to give Moreno five dollars for each bandage purchased. &nbsp;That deal involved former Chicago alderman Ambrosio Medrano. Medrano is scheduled to go to trial on that bribery charge but he was also recently convicted in a related bribery trial. Medrano also spent time in federal prison for taking cash bribes as an alderman in the 1990s. After being released from prison he stayed involved in politics and eventually landed a job with former commissioner Moreno.</p><p>In yet another deal detailed in his guilty plea Monday, Moreno admitted accepting an envelop with a $5,000 cash bribe to support construction of a waste transfer station in Cicero.The bribe was a sting and Moreno now has to pay that money back to the government plus more than $130,000 in restitution. He&rsquo;s likely facing prison time when he&rsquo;s sentenced. Sentencing is scheduled for October.</p></p> Mon, 01 Jul 2013 19:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-cook-county-commissioner-moreno-pleads-guilty-variety-bribery-schemes-107920 Lawyer: Ex-alderman never intended to bribe anyone http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyer-ex-alderman-never-intended-bribe-anyone-107530 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP539271569510_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A former Chicago alderman&#39;s attorney has told jurors at a federal bribery trial in Chicago that his client never intended to bribe anyone.</p><p>Ambrosio Medrano and two businessmen are accused of paying bribe money to an undercover agent posing as a sale representative.</p><p>The agent allegedly told the men he&#39;d pass the money to a Los Angeles official who would supposedly take steps to ensure the men landed a lucrative pharmaceutical contract.</p><p>But it was all part of an FBI sting and the official didn&#39;t actually exist.</p><p>During his opening Tuesday, defense attorney Gal Pissetzky said Medrano never believed the official existed and never thought money paid to the agent was bribe money.</p><p>Medrano spent nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1996 to a payoff scheme.</p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 14:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/lawyer-ex-alderman-never-intended-bribe-anyone-107530 Judge denies Derrick Smith's request for hearing into key witness http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/judge-denies-derrick-smiths-request-hearing-key-witness-105545 <p><p>A federal judge in Chicago has put the brakes on attempts to investigate whether federal agents lied about a key witness in the case against an Illinois lawmaker.</p><p>Prosecutors allege they caught State Rep. Derrick Smith, a Chicago Democrat, on tape accepting a $7,000 bribe.&nbsp;Smith&rsquo;s attorneys say FBI agents didn&rsquo;t disclose the 20 prior arrests of the person who secretly recorded Smith. Victor Henderson, Smith&#39;s attorney, has said he wants the 27 secret recordings thrown out before the trial. He&#39;s argued in court filings that separating the source&#39;s background from the tapes gathered against Smith is no easier than separating the yolk from an egg.</p><p>&quot;It makes a big difference when you&#39;re starting a case out whether you have a nun or a Sister Bertrille who&#39;s at the center of it, or a confidential informant who&#39;s got a criminal history that&#39;s 40 pages long,&quot; Henderson said leading up to the judge&#39;s decision on Thursday.</p><p>But Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled Thursday there&rsquo;s enough evidence to continue the case against Smith, even if the source&#39;s credibility is an issue.</p><p>&quot;The source&#39;s credibility plays no role in establishing that the words were spoken,&quot; she wrote in her decision, referring to the alleged secret recordings of Smith.</p><p>Smith&rsquo;s trial is scheduled to start in October.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/judge-denies-derrick-smiths-request-hearing-key-witness-105545 Credibility of key witness against State Rep. Derrick Smith is questioned http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/credibility-key-witness-against-state-rep-derrick-smith-questioned-105443 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/derrick smith.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The bribery case of an Illinois lawmaker may take a rare step this week. Attorneys are scheduled to debate whether federal authorities lied about the background of a key witness who secretly recorded Illinois State Rep. Derrick Smith.</p><p>Prosecutors allege they have Smith on tape saying he wants a $7,000 bribe in cash so there would be no trace of the money. Much of the prosecutors&rsquo; initial complaint relies on secretly recorded conversations Smith had with an unnamed source.</p><p>Now, that anonymous source has become the subject of scrutiny.</p><p>Victor Henderson, Smith&rsquo;s defense attorney, said federal authorities didn&rsquo;t disclose the criminal history of that source. Early on in the case, federal investigators said the source had one prior arrest and had been paid $1,200 by the FBI for work in other cases.</p><p>But both prosecutors and the defense now say that was wrong. The source actually had 20 prior arrests and had been paid $2,100 by the FBI.</p><p>&ldquo;It makes a big difference when you&rsquo;re starting a case out whether you have a nun or a Sister Bertrille who&rsquo;s at the center of it, or a confidential informant who&rsquo;s got a criminal history that&rsquo;s 40 pages long,&rdquo; Henderson said.</p><p>Henderson is calling for the anonymous source and federal agents to testify in a hearing into whether the evidence could be used in Smith&rsquo;s trial, which is scheduled to begin in October.</p><p>Meantime, prosecutors argue in court documents the hearing isn&rsquo;t necessary because the witness&rsquo;s background doesn&rsquo;t change what Smith said on tape.</p><p>Since the charges were brought against Smith, his fellow members of the House of Representatives voted to kick him out of office. But voters in Smith&rsquo;s district on Chicago&rsquo;s west and northwest side voted him back into his old seat in November after a contentious election. At one point during the campaign, the politically powerful Secretary of State Jesse White, who had once supported Smith, told a crowd of ministers that Smith was no longer welcome on the West Side of Chicago.</p><p>&quot;Someone told me that when you take money, make sure you take enough so you can afford a lawyer,&quot; White said, mocking the $7,000 Smith is accused of illegally accepting.</p><p>Shortly after Smith won election, Henderson held a news conference in which he told reporters Smith would be an independent voice in Springfield who would stand up to the legislators who expelled him from public office.</p><p>&ldquo;There were a lot of ministers who didn&rsquo;t want Martin Luther King up here in the &#39;60s because he said he was causing problems. Look what good he did. People wanted Nelson Mandela to be quiet. People wanted Jesus to be quiet,&rdquo; Henderson said in November.</p><p>Lawmakers in Springfield have abandoned attempts to kick Smith out of office again since the state constitution forbids a legislator from being expelled twice for the same reason. Republican State Rep. Jim Durkin, who helped expel Smith last year, has said Smith will have a hard time doing his job since so many House found him unfit to hold public office once before.</p><p>&quot;He will have a very difficult time legislating and, quite frankly, I think that members of the legislature are going to be suspicious of him and some of them will be just downright offended that they&rsquo;re serving with him,&quot; Durkin said.</p></p> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/credibility-key-witness-against-state-rep-derrick-smith-questioned-105443 Accused lawmaker’s former patron pushes for Illinois House punishment http://www.wbez.org/news/accused-lawmaker%E2%80%99s-former-patron-pushes-illinois-house-punishment-99881 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JesseWhite.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 248px; height: 309px;" title="Secretary of State Jesse White says lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough against Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago. (AP file/Seth Perlman)" /></div><p>The former political patron of state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) says Illinois lawmakers have not moved fast enough to punish him for allegedly taking a bribe.</p><p>Secretary of State Jesse White said Wednesday he was &ldquo;happy&rdquo; a panel of Smith&rsquo;s colleagues had decided to advance a case that could eventually oust him from the House.</p><p>&ldquo;I think there is a price to pay,&rdquo; said White, a longtime 27th Ward committeeman who is backing a third-party candidate in an attempt to unseat Smith in November&rsquo;s election.</p><p>A federal indictment accuses Smith, 48, of accepting $7,000 for supporting a childcare center&rsquo;s application for a $50,000 state grant. The deal turned out to be an FBI sting.</p><p>A seven-page report from a special House committee, a bipartisan panel chaired by Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), says Smith &ldquo;abused the power of his office by participating in a scheme to obtain a personal benefit in exchange for his official acts.&rdquo;</p><p>The disciplinary case now moves to another committee that will decide whether to recommend punishment to the full House. The lawmakers could exonerate, censure, reprimand or expel Smith.</p><p>&ldquo;Personally it saddens me,&rdquo; Nekritz said, &ldquo;to go through this process with one of our members.&rdquo;</p><p>An expulsion would make Smith the first member ousted from the House since 1905, when Frank Comerford (D-Chicago) lost his seat on charges he damaged his colleagues&rsquo; reputations by complaining about corruption among lawmakers.</p><p>Smith&rsquo;s attorney, Victor Henderson, said Wednesday the House should not take evidence from the feds at face value. &ldquo;This is J. Edgar Hoover&rsquo;s FBI,&rdquo; Henderson said. &ldquo;This is the same FBI that wiretapped Martin Luther King.&rdquo;</p><p>Henderson labeled a federal informant at the case&rsquo;s center a &ldquo;con man&rdquo; and said the House disciplinary process was moving forward without enough information. Henderson said the lawmakers should wait for the criminal case to play out.</p><p>Despite the bribery charge, Smith won his March primary in a landslide vote. Ousting him from the House would not remove him from the November ballot or block voters from returning him to the seat.</p><p>In that event, the state constitution would protect Smith from a second expulsion &ldquo;for the same offense&rdquo; but he could apparently face another disciplinary process.</p><p>Nekritz said she and other committee members were pushing for discipline now because they did not know how long the federal prosecution would take. &ldquo;Our duty,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;is to respect and protect the integrity of the House and the members that serve there.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The committee felt unanimously that it was . . . important to proceed on the basis of the information we had,&rdquo; Nekritz said.</p></p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/accused-lawmaker%E2%80%99s-former-patron-pushes-illinois-house-punishment-99881