Politics

State Rep Derrick Smith declares he's innocent at Illinois House hearing

Thursday, May 10, 2012

State representative Derrick Smith refused to answer any questions Thursday when he appeared before an Illinois House committee.

The lawmakers are considering whether to expel Smith who faces a federal bribery charge.

With his attorney, Victor Henderson, never more than a few feet away, Representative Smith arrived at the hearing room to face the House investigative committee for the first time. The appointed Smith, a Democratic nominee on the November ballot, read a statement declaring his innocence, indicating he would not resign or be expelled without a fight.

"In the same way that the people in the district did not abandon me, I will not abandon them," said Smith.

But Smith, who was indicted a week before the March primary, would not answer questions.

Henderson asked the bi-partisan committee not to deliberate the lawmaker's fate until more is known about the government's case.

"I urge each and every one you not to draw any conclusions much less premature conclusions until after you have had the chance to review all of the material facts regarding the charge against the representative," said Henderson.

Under House rules, the committee may consider a rep's refusal to testify as evidence against the member.

"It's something that we can take into account in this political proceeding," said Elaine Nekritz, (D) Des Plaines.

Committee member Dennis Reboletti, (R) Elmhurst, was disappointed that Smith did not deny under oath the allegation that he took $7,000 from a federal informant in a sting operation.

"Part of where we are right now is giving him the opportunity to give us all the evidence he has to say that he shouldn't be punished whatsoever," said Reboletti.

Smith's attorney suggested his client may have been entrapped illegally by the government.

"Some government officials, not all, but I want to emphasize, some government officials will break the law themselves allegedly in the name of justice," said Henderson.

The House committee recessed, hoping that more information concerning the case will become available after Smith's next court appearance on May 30. But members do not expect anywhere near all the information, before they decide whether or not to expel Smith.

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