CHICAGO (AP) – An Illinois lawmaker placed his own welfare above his constituents by taking a $7,000 bribe from a day care operator seeking a state grant, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Monday.
An attorney for Rep. Derrick Smith, however, told jurors a campaign worker-turned-informant hoodwinked the Chicago Democrat to justify cooperation payments from his FBI handlers.
“He wasn’t going to commit a crime,” Victor Henderson said about his client. “That was something they fabricated.”
Prosecutor Marsha McClellan pooh-poohed the notion the 50-year-old was led astray against his will.
“There sits a defendant whose public face is one of service, but who privately wanted to use that office ... to get cash into his pockets,” she said.
McClellan talked about the secret recordings of Smith made by the informant. They left no doubt, she argued, that Smith knew the 70 $100 bills he accepted was a bribe. She also noted what she said was his confident tone on the tapes.
“He never thought this day would come,” she said, referring to the trial.
Smith denies accepting a bribe in exchange for writing a letter supporting the day care’s bid for a state grant, all of which turned out to be part of an elaborate FBI sting.
The informant was referred to in court only by his first name, Pete, and he didn’t testify.
Henderson described the informant as a convicted felon who “set up” Smith in order to get up to $1,000 a week from the FBI for his cooperation.
“He’s a hustler,” Henderson said. “He hustled the representative and he hustled the FBI.”
The prosecution emphasized Smith’s own words. In one tape from March 2012, the informant counts aloud as he hands the cash in seven, $1,000 stacks to Smith.
Earlier, Smith uses slang as he asks the informant about how the care operator will deliver the money, saying, “How she going to get the cheddar to us?” He also seemed to fret about paper trails, saying “I don’t want no trace of it.”
McClellan also described how a distraught Smith after his March 13, 2012, arrest brought agents to his bedroom, retrieved $2,500 in leftover bribe from a cedar chest at the foot of his bed and handed it to agents.
She noted that Smith himself mulled over in recordings how to ensure the alleged bribe appeared legal. And she said Smith hadn’t put the money in a bank or reported it on obligatory campaign finance reports.