West Side Chicago State Representative Derrick Smith is accused of taking a $7,000 cash bribe.
With a Cook County commissioner and one Illinois governor in federal prison, Smith is pulling out all the legal stops to make sure there is no room with his name on it at the Graybar Hotel. Smith's attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the nearly 2-year-old case against him, based on the "vagueness doctrine" that comes as Representative Smith operates as if it is legislative and political business as usual for him.
"The bottom line is my former colleagues don't know the whole truth, and I look forward to the day they do," Smith said.
Representative Smith has contended since the day he was arrested in March of 2012 that he was innocent and would prove so in court. If a motion filed by Smith's attorneys is granted, there would be no evidence, no defense nor any federal court trial at all. Citing the so-called "vagueness doctrine," Smith wants the case against him tossed out. That is a constitutional doctrine that requires law define specifically what conduct is illegal.
Prosecutors say that it was a federal crime when Smith accepted a $7,000 cash bribe in exchange for writing a letter on behalf of a day care center trying to get a federal grant. But Smith now contends: "An individual in Defendant's position cannot reasonably know whether he may incur federal criminal liability. In theory, a member of a village planning commission located within Illinois, who takes a kickback to steer a construction contract to a family member is liable under (the law), as the state receives federal funds."
Even as that plays out, State Rep. Smith is conducting the business of his office, one to which he was re-elected even while under indictment. A week ago, Smith filed petitions to run for another term in the General Assembly, the primary in March would put his case on the front burner for the voters to consider again, prompting a new round of the same old questions.
There is still a trial date of late January in this case, but that seems unlikely as the briefs on the motion to dismiss aren't due until the beginning of the month. Meantime, Representative Smith plows on, raising political cash for the primary fight that now includes several opponents.