Illinois State Representative Derrick Smith Convicted of Taking $7,000 Bribe
CHICAGO—Illinois State Representative DERRICK SMITH (10th District) was convicted today on federal corruption charges for accepting a $7,000 cash bribe in March 2012 to write an official letter of support for a daycare center that he believed was seeking a state grant as part of an undercover investigation. Smith was found guilty by a jury that began deliberating Monday afternoon following a trial that began on May 28.
Smith, 50, of Chicago, was convicted on one count each of bribery and attempted extortion. No sentencing date was immediately set. A status hearing was set for September 23 before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. Bribery carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and attempted extortion carries a maximum of 20 years, and both counts carry a $250,000 maximum fine. The court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
According to the evidence at trial, a confidential source identified as “Pete,” who worked on Smith’s political campaigns, and who, unbeknownst to Smith, was cooperating with the FBI, had numerous conversations with Smith about helping a fictional daycare owner obtain a purported state grant in exchange for a cash bribe. On March 2, 2012, Smith provided Pete with an official letter of support for the daycare owner to obtain a $50,000 Early Childhood Construction Grant from the state’s Capital Development Board. In return, during a recorded meeting on March 10, 2012, Pete gave Smith $7,000 cash, purportedly from the fictional daycare owner.
In March 2011, Smith was appointed state representative for the 10th District, which covers portions of Chicago’s near west and near northwest sides. He was campaigning for his General Assembly seat in the March 20, 2012 primary election when he was arrested on March 13, 2012. Despite being impeached, he was elected to his seat in November 2012 while the charges were pending, but he became a lame duck this past February when he lost his primary bid for re-election.
Trial evidence showed that Pete approached the agents in December 2011 and said that that Smith was willing to trade political and non-political favors for money. During multiple recorded in-person meetings and telephone calls beginning January 24, 2012, Smith agreed to write a letter of support for the purported grant application in exchange for a $7,000 bribe. On January 26, 2012, Smith and Pete toured the daycare facility, and Smith was given information about its purported expansion plans.
Throughout February 2012, Smith and Pete had multiple conversations in which Pete told Smith that the daycare was applying for an Early Childhood Construction Grant. During those recorded conversations, Smith agreed to provide a letter of support in exchange for the daycare owner’s payment of $7,000. In late February 2012, Smith directed Pete to have the daycare owner draft a letter for Smith to sign, and law enforcement sent a draft letter of support to Smith’s office via e-mail. On March 2, 2012, Pete retrieved the letter, which was signed by Smith on his official letterhead and was addressed to the Illinois Capital Development Board.
During early March 2012, Smith told Pete that he wanted payment from the daycare owner, and Smith rejected payment by cashier’s check because he did not want any trace of the money. Smith told Pete that he wanted the $7,000 in cash and agreed to give Pete $2,000 for arranging the deal. On March 10, 2012, Pete met with Smith in Smith’s vehicle, and Pete counted out the $7,000―all in $100 bills―for Smith during their recorded meeting.
Smith did not report receipt of the cash on his Illinois campaign finance reports. After he was arrested, Smith admitted to agents that he had accepted $7,000 in exchange for the letter of support, and, accompanied by agents, he retrieved $2,500 from beneath a chest at the foot of his bed at his home and returned that money to the agents.
The verdict was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marsha A. McClellan and Michael T. Donovan.