Although he maintains his innocence, 10th District state. Rep. Derrick Smith refused to testify today before the House Special Investigative Committee considering whether to punish or expel him based on allegations he took a $7,000 bribe.
After he read a brief statement, Smith's lips were sealed throughout the day. But players on both sides of the fence conjured up images of Jesus Christ, Rod Blagojevich, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska in describing Smith's case, much of which was captured on Rich Miller's Capitol Fax blog.
Smith's attorney Victor Henderson maintains his client is innocent and suggested that, at best, the federal government's case against him is flawed and, at worse, fabricated.
"The government lawyers put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us do, they're susceptible to being dishonest, they're susceptible to making mistakes, they're susceptible, sometimes, to not doing the right thing," Henderson told reporters at the statehouse. "Right now, the representative enjoys the presumption of innocence."
Smith pleaded not guilty to the federal charge of bribery.
At issue for the defense is the fact that the federal government used an informant with a lengthy criminal history in its bribery sting against Smith.
Smith is captured on tape allegedly taking a $7,000 bribe from the informant to write a letter for what he thought was a daycare center seeking a state grant.
Sounding a lot like the Sam Adam/Sam Adam Jr. father and son duo that represented Blagojevich in his first corruption trial, Henderson also said that the government needed to release all the details of its case in the interest of "transparency."
Playing off of the federal government's refusal to furnish the committee with documents related to the investigation, Henderson told the committee that, in order for him or his client to accurately respond to many of the committee's questions, it needed more information from the feds.
"If this is it, if we don't get additional information, we have to use what we have and move forward," said 46th District state Rep. Dennis Reboletti, the committee's GOP spokesperson.
Henderson also said the current improprieties in the case against Smith are similar to the federal government's hiding of evidence in the controversial corruption case against Sen. Stevens, who, in 2008, was found guilty of failing to report improper gifts and home renovations. The case was later thrown out due to misconduct by the prosecution.
For its part, members of the House Committee leaned hard on Smith's attorney.
Henderson was asked up-front by House Counsel David Ellis if Smith took the bribe. Henderson refused to answer that question.
Reboletti told Henderson that, unlike the federal court system, "We [House] aren't limited by proof beyond reasonable doubt."
"Our mission is to determine if reasonable rounds exist to bring charges," he said.
Reboletti also said the case was much like Blagojevich's impeachment proceedings, in which a committee had to make a "judgment call" based on wire taps.
After the hearing, Henderson spoke with reporters and noted that, in the face of adversity, Smith's fortitude is on display.
He then compared his client to a few good men: "The test of a man is when he has his back up against the wall, it's true with Jesus, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela -- they all had bad days, and they all persevered."
Henderson said his client is due in federal court on May 30.
© Community Renewal Society 2012