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Illinois House expels Rep. Derrick Smith amid bribery allegations

Chicago Democratic state Rep. Derrick Smith spoke Friday, August 17, 2012, after lawmakers voted 100-6 to expel him from the Illinois House.
August 17, 2012 8:38:50 PM PDT
Lawmakers voted to expel Chicago Democrat Derrick Smith who has entered a not guilty plea on bribery charges from the Illinois House.

Even though he is kicked out of the House, Smith is still on the November ballot and could be re-elected.

As Smith's desk in the chamber sat empty, colleagues cited as a major reason for expulsion the Chicago lawmaker's refusal to testify and proclaim his innocence to House investigators.

"Not only was Rep. Smith silent but his attorney was as well," said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

"All of the members of the select committee on discipline agree that Mr. Smith is guilty of the charge," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, (D-Chicago).

The vote to expel Smith was 100 to 6. Seconds later, his lighted name on the vote board was turned off.

Smith, who was appointed by Democratic committee members last year, was indicted in early March for accepting a $7,000 bribe during a federal sting operation. He allegedly took the money in exchange for writing a letter on behalf of a fictitious day center which had applied for a state grant. Despite the charge, Smith won his primary election and his name still will appear on the November ballot as the Democratic candidate.

"Because of their support, I intend to remain on the ballot and run for office in November," said Smith on Friday.

"All this is about at the end of the day was an opportunity for them to grab his seat. Period. End of story," said Vic Henderson, Smith's attorney.

The half dozen reps who voted against expulsion said Smith -- innocent in the court system until proven guilty -- had been denied due process in the state House.

"The constitution, the federal constitution, supercedes the state of Illinois constitution," said Rep. Mary flowers (D-Chicago).

"The argument that were made on the floor that he wouldn't come in and say anything, his attorney advised him to use the federal constitution to protect himself against this hearing," said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago).

Lawmakers react to expulsion

Smith is now part of history -- the first state rep to be expelled by the House in over a century.

"The bottom line is my former colleagues don't know the whole truth, and I look forward to the day they do," he said Friday.

His former colleagues kicked him out in large part because, they say, he declined to come before them and present his side of the story.

"No only was Rep. Smith silent, but his attorney was as well," said Lang.

His attorneys were not silent Friday afternoon, calling Smith's ouster a "sham" by politicians unwilling to subpoena key witnesses and being more interested in protecting Democratic Party power.

"How do you throw an elected official out without one bit of evidence? It's because they wanted his seat and now they want some schmuk to come in there and give him his vote," said Sam Adam, Smith's attorney.

"This was a political process. Not due process, but a political process," said Henderson.

"What he does or chooses to do is almost irrelevant. What's most relevant is making sure those families get the zealous representation they deserve," said Lance Tyson, a Democrat who is on the ballot in the 10th District as an independent.

Smith took no questions Friday, but his attorneys say his campaign will be full out and will focus on Tyson as a "tool" for Democratic party bosses. Tyson says he will be a tool -- for getting things done that a man facing trial won't be able to do.


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