CHICAGO (AP) — State Rep. Derrick Smith vowed Monday to clear his name and said he would not leave office, his first public comments since he was charged with bribery last month.
Smith, 48, officially pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday. The Chicago Democrat has been charged with accepting a bribe in exchange for using his influence to obtain a state grant for a day care center.
"I intend to fight these charges," Smith told reporters after the hearing. "I look forward to having the opportunity to clear my name."
Federal prosecutors allege Smith accepted a cash bribe from a campaign worker who was an undercover FBI informant. Smith thought he was taking the money for an official letter supporting a $50,000 grant request from a day care center that turned out to be fictitious and part of a sting, according to a criminal complaint.
Prosecutors say he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is due in court May 16.
Smith won the Democratic nomination in Illinois' primary despite his arrest on March 13, days before the election. Since then, several state leaders, including Gov. Pat Quinn, have called for Smith to step down. Also, a special legislative committee is reviewing whether Smith should be removed from office.
But Smith said the people in his district voted for him after the arrest and he intended to remain in office.
"While I have been troubled to experience the shenanigans being played by the FBI to lean on people around me and to get them to say bad things about me, I would not cower," he said. "I intend to stand tall with my wife family friends, House colleagues and lawyers."
Smith declined to answer any questions.
His attorney, Victor Henderson, tried to poke holes in the government's case, calling the reputation of the confidential informant into question. He declined to name the informant but said the government hasn't been truthful about the person's reputation.
Henderson said more facts about the case would come out in the future that would prove the Smith is innocent.
U.S. attorney's office spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment.
If the Illinois House investigating committee determines that discipline is warranted, the matter goes to another group that decides on penalties, including reprimand or expulsion. The House would have to approve punishment.