Former Rep. Derrick Smith seeks reelection in wake of federal investigation

By The Columbia Chronicle

After he was caught on tape allegedly accepting a $7,000 bribe, Rep. Derrick Smith (D-10th) was arrested and voted out of the Illinois House of Representatives 100-6 on Aug. 17. Despite the charges against him, Smith plans to run for re-election, leaving policy makers divided.

During a Sept. 26 pre-trial status hearing, Smith’s representation sought additional time between future hearings to allow his client more time to organize his campaign, which is already strong despite the charges against him, according to his attorney, Victor Henderson.

Smith was voted out of office for agreeing to provide a letter of recommendation for a day care center to receive a fictitious $50,000 grant in exchange for $7,000.

Some who voted against his expulsion thought the case’s special investigative committee had not provided him with due process, according to Rep. Dennis Reboletti (R-46th).

Smith is the first member of the House to be voted out since 1905 when Democrat Frank Comerford was dismissed for acting as a whistleblower regarding fellow representatives involved in bribery schemes.

Reboletti said fellow policymakers were skeptical of Smith’s actions when he was absent from the deciding vote.

“His actions spoke volumes after he failed to show up to defend himself [the day he was voted out of office],” Reboletti said. “By him not [defending] himself, the House is allowed to take his actions into consideration and I believe that’s what my colleagues have done.”

Following the status hearing, Henderson criticized the government’s case, saying some evidence may be compromised and will not hold up in court.

“We have information about the informant [who] implicated Mr. Smith, and that simply is [that] the informant did not have a clean record,” Henderson said.

“[The informant] has been on the state’s payroll for three years. A lot of people, myself included, are seeking an answer as to why he is working for the state.”

Henderson fought for an extension between status hearings that he said would allow Smith sufficient time to organize his campaign committee. However, Reboletti said he believes that if Smith runs for re-election, effective representation of his district would be jeopardized and call into question the integrity of the entire House.

“I am surprised that he would continue,” Reboletti said. “He has a federal trial to worry about, and I think it’s really unfair to people of the 10th District. They deserve honest services, and I think it’s time someone else represents the 10th District.”

As the legislature looks to move forward, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th) said any action not taken by the House would result in mistrust of the entire Illinois government.

“His actions were so out of line with the standards at which members of the House conduct themselves that something had to be done swiftly and properly in order for the values of this House to be upheld,” Currie said.

With speculation of an entrapment defense, Reboletti argued that trust must be placed with the prosecution to prevent Smith from regaining his seat.

“The court and the jury must take in[to] consideration the value of what the informant’s testimony is,” Reboletti said. “If those comments were overheard and put in front of a judge, then I believe that is some pretty damning evidence. I think the appropriate outcome occurred,  and the same will be said for his trial and his exclusion from the House entirely.”