State Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago, pictured), facing federal bribery charges, appeared before a legislative panel Thursday in Springfield that will determine his House punishment, but he wouldn’t testify under oath. Smith’s lawyer, Victor Henderson, says such testimony could affect the separate criminal trial. Lawmakers peppered Henderson with questions, most of which he wouldn’t answer as he’s waiting for the federal government to release its information so he can compare it to the criminal complaint – a complaint, at this point, he doesn’t believe. He advised lawmakers to do the same.
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“Democracy requires of all of us to not rush to judgment, to get the information, to learn and then to act instead of just acting hastily,” Henderson says. “I don’t think that’s a standard that just goes for Rep. Smith.” Lawmakers replied it’s their job to make a judgment call based on the information presented, as they did with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The investigative panel’s proceedings are not criminal proceedings, so any information Smith presents or, as has been the case so far, doesn’t present, can be used against him.
Smith is accused of accepting a $7,000 cash bribe from a fictitious daycare center to write a letter of support for a state grant. House prosecutor David Ellis told Henderson the panel wants to know if the letter exists, as alleged in the criminal complaint. “The official act that Rep. Smith is accused of committing is writing this letter of support. Is there something that you want to tell us about this, something that you can point to in the criminal complaint that is incorrect, taken out of context?” Ellis asked. “We’re trying to figure out… did he write this letter?” Henderson wouldn’t confirm or deny the letter exists. He said he’s waiting for the federal government to release all its information so he can compare it with the criminal complaint. The committee’s timetable is unclear, but Smith is expected back in court at the end of the month.