State Sen. Emil Jones III pleads not guilty to federal bribery charges involving red-light cameras

Gov. JB Pritzker called on the IL state senator to resign after he was arraigned on charges involving SafeSpeed.

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Friday, September 23, 2022
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Illinois Governor JB Pritzker called on State Sen. Emil Jones III to resign after pleaded not guilty to bribery charges related to SafeSpeed LLC.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker called for state Sen. Emil Jones III to resign after he pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges Friday.

"We need to demonstrate in our state that we are acting appropriately that we have people following the rules appropriately," Pritzker said.

Pritzker is also called on state Sen. Michael Hastings to step down following allegations of abuse by his estranged wife.

"We obviously have a different reaction to these two circumstances," Pritzker said.

SEE MORE: State Sen. Emil Jones III hit with federal bribery charges tied to red-light camera investigation

While Hastings and Jones have resigned from democratic leadership posts, Senate President Don Harmon has not asked the men to give up their seats.

"The gravity of the accusations required immediate action and consequences, which is why the Senate President demanded and received resignations from their leadership posts. Now it is up to these individuals and their constituents to determine their futures," Harmon said.

Father Michael Pfleger, who supports the governor's justice reform efforts, said calling for resignations before people are proven guilty is not justice reform.

"From somebody who was falsely accused myself, I think people deserve to get a chance to find the truth I have a problem when we ready to rush to judgment," Pfleger said.

Pfleger accused Pritzker of making decisions based on politics. The governor is up for re-election and corruption among state democrats has been an issue used by Republicans.

"With a history like our state has had, and with desire we now have put ourselves on strong ethical footing, that is completely appropriate to ask people who are going to be defending themselves against charges to step aside, as they do so," Pritzker said.

Jones will be back in court on Nov. 4, just four days before the election. He is running unopposed.

A day after federal prosecutors accused Jones of taking $5,000 to protect a politically connected red-light camera company from unfavorable legislation, Harmon "asked for and received" the senator's resignation as chair of the Senate Licensed Activities Committee, according to a letter Harmon filed with the secretary of the Senate.

That position came along with a $11,098 annual stipend for Jones on top of his annual salary, which amounted to $80,700 last year before taxes, according to the state comptroller's office.

READ MORE | Former Oakbrook Terrace mayor pleads guilty in red-light camera bribery scheme

Jones also agreed to step down from his positions as vice chair of the Public Safety Committee - which handles red-light camera business - and Senate deputy majority leader. Those titles were unpaid.

Despite Republican calls to relinquish his Senate seat altogether, Jones has given no indication he's going anywhere. Messages left at his offices in the Roseland neighborhood and in Springfield went unanswered.

The indicted senator's father, former state Senate President Emil Jones Jr., issued a statement Tuesday asserting the charges against his son "do not reflect the man he is," with the retired leader vowing "to fight with him and stand alongside him throughout this process."

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement Wednesday that Jones III "should absolutely resign. How is the public supposed to trust its government when the Democrats who control the laws repeatedly break them?"

Asked if Harmon thinks Jones III should resign outright, a spokesman for the Oak Park Democrat said "the Senate President has taken the available, immediate steps to reflect the gravity of the allegations."

READ MORE | Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval charged with bribery, filing false tax return in red light camera scheme

Jones III finds himself among at least five public officials ensnared in the feds' corruption probe of the red-light camera SafeSpeed.

According to the charges prosecutors filed, Jones III allegedly told a partner of the company that he would protect SafeSpeed from legislation in the General Assembly in exchange for $5,000 and a job for an unnamed associate. And in 2019, the state senator is accused of lying to the FBI about his role in the alleged scheme.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.