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Feds Seek 5 Years For Former State Rep. Derrick Smith On Bribery Charge

CHICAGO (STMW) -- He called cash bribes "cheddar."

Now former State Rep. Derrick Smith is probably going to have to eat some hard cheese.

Maybe five years of it in federal prison.

Convicted last summer of shaking down a day care business for a $7,000 bribe in return for writing a letter of support for a state grant application, Smith had been set to be sentenced Thursday, but his hearing has been rescheduled for March 17.

Prosecutors say he "extorted this money because he could and pocketed it because he thought no one would ever know," and that he was motivated by "nothing other than simple greed."

They want him locked up for four to five years.

But Smith continues to deny his guilt, arguing that the government sting that caught him was entrapment. His attorneys say he doesn't deserve to be locked up.

Smith, 51, was a rookie West Side legislator still in his first year in office when he was nabbed by the feds in 2012.

A cooperating government witness — who never testified at trial — secretly recorded him as he accepted the cash bribe, even counting out the bills out loud as he handed them over.

Smith made prosecutors' jobs easier by later handing back to the FBI $2,500 of the bribe that he had stashed in his bedroom, and by admitting to agents following his arrest that he had "f***** up," trial testimony showed.

Despite his arrest and indictment, Smith was re-elected later that year, even after he had become the first member in a century to be tossed out of the Illinois House by his fellow legislators.

Defeated in a primary earlier last year despite financial backing from House Speaker Mike Madigan's organization, he finally left office in January.

Prosecutor Marsha McClellan argued in court papers filed ahead of Thursday's sentencing that Smith's "steadfast refusal to accept responsibility, no doubt contributes to the erosion of the public's trust in its elected officials."

But Smith's attorney Vic Henderson urged U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman not to compare "Smith's conduct to that of other Illinois politicians, such as Governor Ryan and Governor Blagojevich," citing the small sum of cash involved and adding, "Derrick Smith did not orchestrate the incident leading up to his indictment.

"The situation was created by the government."

Given Smith's ongoing denial of guilt, he is unlikely to offer a full-throated apology on Thursday, though Henderson said Smith is "is remorseful for bringing himself and his family shame as a result of his arrest and conviction."

Smith had a pithier statement for the media after his conviction in June.

"The jury just didn't see what God saw," he said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2015. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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