(The Center Square) – Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of bribery and lying to the FBI.
Jones, D-Chicago, was charged this week on three counts of accepting a bribe and lying about it to federal officials in relation to the red light camera industry. He appeared in federal court Friday. Chicago media report he pleaded “not guilty,” and his next status hearing is Nov. 4.
Jones is up for reelection without an opponent in the Nov. 8 election.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker released a statement Thursday demanding Jones resign from office, saying constituents deserve an elected official not mired by such allegations. Jones is still in office, but has resigned his position as deputy majority leader and relinquished some of his leadership posts in various Senate committees.
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said the allegations against Jones are grave and “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.”
Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, noted in a statement that four members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have been indicted and/or convicted of federal corruption charges in the last several years and Pritzker’s words are empty.
“His silence and failure to lead on this issue continues to enable the corruption in his own party that is so toxic to us all,” McConchie said.
Jones is the 11th current or former state lawmaker to be charged with corruption by federal officials. Earlier this year, former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was charged with 22 federal counts stemming from a nearly decade-long scheme in which prosecutors say Madigan used his public office for personal gain. Madigan has pleaded not guilty with a trial pending.
McConchie said his Senate Bill 3636 would help combat corruption at the Illinois statehouse. The measure would, among other things, expand the authority of a statewide grand jury to investigate offenses involving the corruption of a public official and expand Illinois’ RICO law to include bribery, official misconduct and legislative misconduct.
Highlighted in McConchie’s proposal is a measure to give the Legislative Inspector General the ability to issue subpoenas without prior consent from the Legislative Ethics Commission.
McConchie also said lawmakers should pass Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 16 to amend the state constitution to allow voters to recall more elected officials, including members of the General Assembly.
“There is a high societal cost to corruption when people don’t have faith in their government,” McConchie said. “That cost is a weakening of democracy, where no longer are elected officials looking out for the public’s best interests, but their own instead.”