As the new Illinois General Assembly takes oath today, it is hard not to notice that three of its members are facing criminal charges, points out the Associated Press. The three lawmakers all hail from Chicago and face a wide range of charges.
Rep. Derrick Smith is up against bribery charges stemming from a March arrest for allegedly accepting $7,000 in exchange for putting his support behind a day care center grant. Smith was expelled from office in August, but was re-elected by 10th district voters in November. Smith is set to go on trial for the charges in October. He has plead not guilty.
Rep. LaShawn Ford faces bank fraud charges, citing alleged misuse of a line of credit granted for the rehab of Chicago properties. Instead of using the funds for the rehabs, Ford is accused of using the funds for personal use, like car loans, casino and credit card bills, and his 2006 campaign for state rep. Ford says he is not guilty of the charges.
Meanwhile, Rep. Donne Trotter is dealing with charges surrounding an attempt to bring a firearm aboard a plane. Trotter, who has since abandoned his campaign to run for the 2nd congressional district seat emptied by Jesse Jackson Jr., says he forgot he had the gun with him, which he had in his possession for a job he has moonlighting as a security guard.
Though the charges vary, political experts say the fact that three members of the new General Assembly face criminal charges does little to help a state trying to clean up its image as its past two governors sit in federal prison.
"All this does is confirm those negative, cynical opinions that are out there," Kent Redfield, a University of Illinois at Springfield political scientist, told the Associate Press. "Part of that reputation is well deserved, ... but if you're trying to get citizens of Illinois to accept the legitimacy of the process you need as much credibility and trust as you can muster. That's in pretty low supply in state government currently."