A prominent Chicago Democrat lawmaker has been hit with federal bribery charges, prosecutors have revealed.
Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) has been charged with bribery as part of a yearslong investigation into the red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC.
He was also charged with lying to the FBI.
Jones, a South Side Democrat who serves as a deputy majority leader, is the son of former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr.
His father, Jones Jr., was former President Barack Obama’s political mentor.
Jones Jr. defended his son in a statement, claiming the charges “do not reflect the man he is.”
“Everyone knows he is an honest, hardworking legislator,” the former Senate president said.
“I intend to fight with him and stand alongside him throughout this process.”
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said: “These are grave allegations.
“Members of the Senate and all public officials need to hold themselves to a high ethical standard for the public to have trust and faith in our work.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said:
“The Democrat Party of Illinois has become an organized crime family whose only purpose is to shakedown Illinois taxpayers.”
Jones III’s father led the Illinois Senate from 2003 to 2009.
He considered himself to be Obama’s “political godfather” because he showed the ex-POTUS the ropes when he served in the state Senate.
///BREAKING/// State Sen. Emil Jones III has been hit with federal bribery charges alleging he took money from a red light camera company executive to kill legislation requiring traffic studies for camera systems. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI. Story to come pic.twitter.com/MYeBIgo1Tp
— Jason Meisner (@jmetr22b) September 20, 2022
According to The Chicago Sun-Times:
The feds say Jones III agreed that, in exchange for benefits provided by SafeSpeed partner Omar Maani, he would work to limit such studies to systems used in Chicago, “thereby excluding from study” the systems “in numerous other municipalities” served by SafeSpeed.
Jones III also allegedly told Maani he would protect SafeSpeed from legislation in the General Assembly in exchange for $5,000 and a job for an unnamed associate.
Then, the state senator allegedly lied to the FBI about his role in the scheme on Sept. 24, 2019.
The legislation identified in the charges was filed during a veto session, just before session ended, meaning it was unlikely to move forward.
It was viewed by some as a “fetcher bill” — legislation that wasn’t going anywhere but was intended to “fetch” campaign contributions.
Meanwhile, Jones III has now joined the long list of individuals charged in connection with the feds’ probe of SafeSpeed deals.
Other politicians who have faced charges related to SafeSpeed include Sandoval, former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta, former Worth Township Supervisor John O’Sullivan and former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci.
Jones Jr. appointed Jones III, then 31, to his Senate seat in 2009. Jones III has run unopposed since 2012.
At the time of his appointment, Jones Jr.’s allies rallied for his son.
State Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, a longtime Jones Jr. ally and inheritor of a political legacy himself, said he saw nothing wrong with Jones III getting a chance to hold his father’s Senate seat.
“Give him a chance to prove himself,” Rita said in 2008.
Jones III worked for the state between May 1999 and November 2006, when he briefly left the payroll.
Despite not having a college degree, he was hired in April 2007 as an administrator for former Gov. Blagojevich’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity — a job that paid $59,436 annually.
He serves on eight Illinois Senate committees, including public safety, where he is a vice-chair.