SPRINGFIELD --- The Illinois House panel investigating a Chicago lawmaker accused of bribery is holding off on hearings next week because of the potential for more activity in federal court.
The latest developments in the case of Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, emerged in a letter released Saturday by the ranking lawmakers of both parties on the House Special Investigating Committee.
Elaine Nekritz, the committee chair from Northbrook, and Republican Rep. Dennis Reboletti, the minority spokesman from Elmhurst.
The House committee had anticipated meeting next week. But the lawmakers said a hearing will be postponed the House returns to Springfield in mid-April. The letter, written to other lawmakers on the panel, said that will allow time to "review and respond to any information that might come out during the additional court proceedings."
What exactly U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has planned in the case involving Smith has not been revealed. Reboletti and Nekritz spoke by phone with Fitzgerald last week to follow-up on a letter they sent him to explain the House panel would like more information but does not wish to interfere with the federal case.
Reboletti, a former Will County prosecutor, said federal authorities generally have 30 days from the time an initial charge is made to seek an indictment from a grand jury, but the period can be extended in some cases.
Smith was charged March 13, meaning the 30-day period would fall next week. The decision to postpone the House hearing acknowledges the 30-day period ends and also gives Fitzgerald more time to respond to the House panel's request for more information, Reboletti said.
Reboletti said Fitzgerald did not tip his hand and that lawmakers did not ask for him to give more details about his investigation.
Smith was arrested the week before the March Democratic primary. Despite that, he won with 77 percent of the vote over Tom Swiss, who previously held a ranking position with the Cook County Republican Party.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, had poured more than $60,000 of staff and resources into Smith's race before federal authorities announced the bribery charge. Smith, who worked for Secretary of State Jesse White before being appointed to the House last year, allegedly accepted $7,000 in a federal sting.
A Fitzgerald spokesman had no comment Saturday. Smith could not be reached for comment.
House panel investigating lawmaker expects more federal court action
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