An FBI agent admitted to embarrassing “mistakes” in the bribery case against state Rep. Derrick Smith Friday as the embattled West Side Democrat fought back.
Special Agent Ryan McDonald acknowledged on the stand that the government failed to disclose in key court documents details about the lengthy criminal history of the campaign worker who first accused Smith of being a bribe-taker, then helped the feds set up a sting.
The informant — who has been identified in court only by his first name, “Pete” — is a twice-convicted felon with 20 arrests going back as far as 1978, but McDonald testified that those facts were neither included in the criminal complaint against Smith, nor in the government’s application for a wiretap of Smith.
“It was a mistake,” McDonald said, agreeing that the investigation of Smith began at the informant’s urging in 2011, and that it was the informant who suggested the bribe to Smith.
Though Smith’s attorneys have been barred by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman from arguing that Smith was entrapped, they have built their defense around attacking the informant, who is not expected to be called as a witness by either side.
Conversations that the informant secretly recorded with Smith in early 2012 capture the lawmaker soliciting a $7,000 bribe from the owner of a daycare business in return for his support of a state grant application, prosecutors had said Thursday at the start of what’s expected to be a week-long trial.
Coleman placed strict limits on how deep defense attorneys Joshua Adams and Vic Henderson were allowed to go in discussing the mole’s lurid past.
But court records show he has been a federal informant for 20 years, was accused in 1994 of stealing bricks during the demolition of Chicago Stadium, helped the FBI probe a robbery plot at a Popeye’s Chicken in 2000, and failed a lie detector test in connection with an explosives investigation.
And even under the limited scope the judge gave them, Henderson and Adams seemed to score points Friday.
During one exchange with McDonald, Adams suggested the informant was motivated only by the $25,000 payments he received from the FBI when he set Smith up.
“Well, he didn’t do it out of the goodness of his heart, did he?” Adams asked.
“No,” McDonald replied.
Smith likely faces a far trickier day in court Monday, when prosecutors are expected to begin playing the recordings the informant made, including one in which Smith allegedly refers to the bribe as “cheddar.”