State Rep. Derrick Smith kicked out of Illinois House

Attorneys call process “a sham,” vow he’ll still campaign to regain seat

08/17/2012 9:47 PM

By Ben Meyerson

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Derrick Smith, the Near West Side state rep accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe, was expelled from the Illinois House Friday afternoon by his colleagues.

Smith lost his 10th District seat in an overwhelming 100-6 vote that crossed political lines. He’s the first rep to be kicked out of the house since 1905.

The vote comes five months after Smith was charged with allegedly accepting a bribe in exchange for steering a state grant to a daycare center. Unbeknownst to Smith, the daycare center did not exist and the bribe was channeled through an FBI informant.

Smith wasn’t in Springfield to see the vote, though. Instead, he was in Chicago with his attorneys, and in a press conference soon after the vote, he called the process flawed. That’s because members of the house didn’t wait until they had all the evidence from the case, or wait for it to play out in court — they simply went forward based on the criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney.

In a brief statement to the press Friday afternoon at his lawyers’ office, a choked-up Smith said he wished the house hadn’t rushed to judgment.

“The bottom line is that my former colleagues did not know the whole truth, and I look forward to that day when they do,” he said. “According to the United States constitution, every person has their day in court. So I look forward to having my day in court so that I can one day soon clear my name.”

His attorneys, Victor Henderson and Sam Adam Jr., were more blunt.

“As far as we’re concerned, the proceeding down in Springfield today was a sham,” Henderson said. “At the end of the day, this is an opportunity for the people in Springfield to grab his seat, plain and simple. ... This was all prearranged. This was not a process that led to an outcome; rather, they knew the outcome that they wanted and they manipulated and formulated a process to get to where they wanted to go.”

When Smith wouldn’t resign from his seat in the wake of the bribery charges, Democratic leaders from Smith’s area picked Todd Stroger’s former chief of staff Lance Tyson to run against him as a third party, under the banner of the 10th District Unity Party.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has said he wanted to name Tyson to Smith’s seat as a replacement until the general election.

Smith’s other attorney, Sam Adam Jr. (who famously represented ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich) took umbrage with that.

“How can you throw an elected official out of office without having one bit of evidence?” Adam said. “There’s only one reason — it’s because they wanted his seat, and now they want some schmuck to come in and give them his vote.”

But Smith is still on the ballot this November despite his expulsion, and he’ll go head-to-head with Tyson.

For his part, in a statement released Friday, Tyson focused on the voters.

“Today is another sad day in Illinois’ troubled political history,” he said. “And while my thoughts go out to former Representative Derrick Smith and his family as he awaits trial, my attention continues to be focused on the real trials being faced by working families across the 10th District and their need for job opportunities, quality schools and safe streets.”

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