The pile of 70 crisp $100 bills had been neatly stacked into bundles.
“One, two, three, four, five — damn, stuck together, six, seven,” the federal mole counted out loud, as he handed over an alleged $7,000 bribe to state Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago.
“You don’t want me to give you yours now?” Smith replied as they sat together in his parked car on a West Side street.
“I’ll get at you later,” the mole told him, splitting without taking his cut.
Played in court for jurors Tuesday, a devastating audio recording of that March 10, 2012, conversation could land Smith in prison.
It captured the moment the Democrat was paid for writing a letter in support of a state grant application for a day care business in his district, prosecutors say.
In an earlier recording of a discussion about the $7,000 payment, also played for jurors on the fourth day of Smith’s bribery and extortion trial, Smith had said “I don’t want no trace of it.”
But FBI agent Bryan Butler testified that Smith admitted when he was arrested three days after the payoff that he’d taken the cash “in return for writing the letter.”
And jurors have seen the letter, signed by Smith.
Smith even returned $2,500 of the bribe, which he’d stashed at his home, but only after asking that he be accompanied by two black FBI agents so as to keep his arrest “discreet,” Butler said.
Defense attorney Vic Henderson tried to limit the damage to Smith during a fierce cross-examination of Butler, a relatively inexperienced agent who admitted the FBI has not recovered $2,000 of the bribe which Smith says he gave to the mole.
Butler also struggled with questions about the trustworthiness of the mole, a campaign worker for Smith who’d been a paid federal informant for years. He wasn’t aware of the mole’s lengthy criminal history until after Smith’s arrest, he said.
But prosecutors argue the taped conversations speak for themselves.
The last recording of Smith, which allegedly captures him receiving the bribe, ends with the mole laughing after handing off the cash.
“Didn’t even say thank you!” the mole says.