Indicted Ill. lawmaker plans return to Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An indicted Illinois lawmaker plans a return to work in Springfield despite a barrage of demands for his resignation, his lawyer said Wednesday.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An indicted Illinois lawmaker plans a return to work in Springfield despite a barrage of demands for his resignation, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Rep. Derrick Smith has been largely absent from the capital since his March 13 arrest on a federal bribery charge. But his lawyer, Victor Henderson, said the Chicago Democrat intends to report to work "sooner rather than later."

"He’s ready to get back in the saddle," Henderson told The Associated Press. "He takes his responsibility as state representative very seriously, and that continues."

A federal grand jury indicted Smith Tuesday. Authorities allege he took a $7,000 bribe in exchange for his endorsement of a state grant application on behalf of what he thought was a day care center. It in fact was an agency set up by federal authorities as part of a sting.

Smith faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

Several prominent politicians, including Gov. Pat Quinn and Smith’s political sponsor, Secretary of State Jesse White, have asked him to resign. Chicago Alderman Jason Ervin, whose ward includes part of Smith’s district, said Tuesday the lawmaker had missed 150 votes during a crucial legislative session and should either quit or go to work.

Smith has a right to due process, Ervin said, but not to "stay home…and collect a paycheck."

The General Assembly resumes its session in Springfield Tuesday after a two-week spring break.

On Wednesday, Smith did not return a phone call from the AP or respond to an email message requested by an aide.

"He has no plans to resign and he will plead — at the appropriate time — not guilty," Henderson said.

Henderson criticized the government for setting up a "sham" agency to pose as the potential grant recipient. He accused the government of using "fabricated, false information."

"The public will have its own reaction to the government setting up sham transactions in connection with its official duties," Henderson said.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined comment. A criminal complaint indicates the government registered a not-for-profit agency with the secretary of state’s office.

Henderson also repeated a contention, first made last week, that authorities pressed Smith for information that might benefit the criminal investigation of others, but Smith refused to cooperate. Henderson declined to say who federal officials had targeted.

"They asked him about any number of people, other elected officials," Henderson said, "but he refused to be intimidated or coerced into identifying others."

Henderson will defend Smith with law partner Sam Adam Jr., who represented former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the first of his two corruption trials. Blagojevich was eventually convicted and is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

Smith, appointed to the House last spring to fill a vacancy, was arrested a week before a Democratic primary for the seat. He won 77 percent of the vote and remains on the November general-election ballot.

A House committee has begun examining his conduct, a procedure that could lead to Smith’s expulsion from the chamber. But his legislative colleagues cannot kick him off the ballot.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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