Judge asked to allow use of lawmaker's statements
CHICAGO — Prosecutors want to be able to tell jurors about potentially damaging comments state Rep. Derrick Smith made to authorities as they questioned him about allegedly taking a bribe, though a federal judge said Tuesday she would rule on the matter later.
Within hours of the Chicago Democrat's arrest in 2012, he waived his right to remain silent and repeatedly cursed as he told investigators he'd made a mistake by accepting a $7,000 bribe, according to a government filing earlier this week.
Smith pleaded not guilty last year to taking a bribe in exchange for recommending a state grant to help a daycare center. In a procedural step, he pleaded not guilty again at a Tuesday hearing to the same allegations in a superseding indictment.
An FBI account of the 2012 interview included in the government's Monday filing said that several times during the interview, Smith said that he messed up and that "he should never have written a letter for the daycare."
An outwardly upset Smith, the report from the FBI said, even accompanied agents back to his house to hand back $2,500 in remaining bribe money that he'd stuffed under a chest in his bedroom.
The defense asked earlier for U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to bar prosecutors from entering the remarks into evidence. Smith regarded them as part of a plea negotiation, the defense argued, which they contend would make the statements inadmissible.
Smith's trial is set to begin May 28, by which time Coleman must rule on the admissibility of the statements. If convicted, Smith faces up to 30 years in prison.
His fellow state representatives expelled Smith from the legislature in 2012 after the bribery allegations emerged. He won re-election months later, but then more recently lost his primary race.