Former state Rep. Derrick Smith might have as many as three more weeks of freedom before facing the music for taking a $7,000 cash bribe.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman put Smith’s surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on hold until Oct. 21 “unless this court orders otherwise” after hearing arguments Tuesday from defense attorney Michelle Jacobs. But she only did so after pointing out that Smith’s mere five-month prison sentence could already have been behind him.
“He would have been done by now,” Coleman said. “It would have been over.”
Coleman herself characterized Smith’s sentence as “brief” during Tuesday’s hearing, which Smith attended. Jacobs has argued Smith might win either a new trial or a reduced sentence on appeal, but that process might not end before Smith leaves prison. He was previously due to report to a federal prison in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday.
The judge listened with raised eyebrows Tuesday as Jacobs argued that the judge might have considered an inappropriately high sentencing range before ultimately concluding that Smith deserved a five-month sentence. But because Smith’s sentence fell well below that range, the judge said there’s no reason to think it will change even if his appeal is successful.
Or, the judge said, the sentence could “maybe go up.”
Jacobs later assured the testy judge that Smith’s sentence — seen as a big break for the convicted pol — was “very fair.”
“Not according to a lot of people,” Coleman replied.
Smith thought the cash he was pocketing from an FBI mole in March 2012 was coming from the owner of a day care center in his district, prosecutors have said. He later handed back to the FBI $2,500 of the bribe that he’d stashed in his bedroom, telling an agent he’d “f—ed up.”
The West Side Democrat became the first member in a century to be tossed from the House after his arrest. His constituents returned him to office in 2012, but he was defeated in the March 2014 primary.