Tuesday, August 25, 2009

St. Louis Senator Smith Pleads Guilty, Resigns

Once considered a rising star in the Missouri Democratic Party, St. Louis State Senator Jeff Smith pleaded guilty to two federal counts of obstruction of justice Tuesday and announced his resignation from office.

Fellow Democrat, Rep. Steve Brown of Clayton, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice, and said that he, too, will resign.
It all revolves around Smith's failed 2004 congressional campaign and an independent group that distributed postcards and fliers critical of his primary opponent, now Rep. Russ Carnahan.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has Smith's statement/explanation:
"I became aware of an independent effort to produce two mailers to benefit my campaign . . . I authorized a close friend to raise money for the effort, and my press secretary provided public information about my opponent’s voting record. I withheld my knowledge of these facts during the Federal Election Commission’s 2004 investigation, misleading investigators and filing a false affidavit."
Jo Mannies of The St. Louis Beacon reports that Smith, Rep. Brown and former campaign treasurer Nick Adams could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and a fine of $250,000. Their sentencing was set for Nov. 10. However, the judge and federal prosecutors said that Brown and Adams may receive lighter sentences because of "substantial assistance'' they provided during the later stages of the investigation.
"Today, my office received letters of resignation from Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. Steve Brown. The charges to which these officials pleaded guilty are a violation of the public’s trust, and their resignations are both necessary and appropriate. I have notified the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office of a Nov. 3 special election to fill these vacancies," said the Governor in a statement.
"I am saddened to learn of guilty plea entered by my friend Sen. Jeff Smith. Over that past few years, we have worked together on a number of educational initiatives and other legislation to benefit the urban core in St. Louis. In keeping with the teaching contained in the 25th chapter of the Book of Mathew, I will stand by my friend during this dark time for him and his family. While I do not condone the actions that resulted in today’s plea, his bipartisan record prior to the incident speaks for itself. Sen. Smith worked hard to create a better future for his neighbors in St. Louis, and I hope his legislative career is remembered in that manner."
"Jeff Smith was a bright young Senator who worked hard for his district. I am saddened by his resignation and the circumstances surrounding it. As Senate President Pro Tem I will take action to assure services continue to be provided to the citizens of the 4th Senatorial District during this time they are without a senator."

"It is a sad day when those sworn to uphold the law admit instead to obstructing a federal investigation. Today’s guilty pleas by high ranking Democrat officials Jeff Smith and Steve Brown illustrate the arrogant abuse of power that undermines the faith that Missourians have in their government and their representatives. Those in public office have an obligation to uphold the public’s trust—and when elected officials forget this, their careers rightly end in disgrace. These Democrats conspired to break the rules by intentionally misleading investigators, and now they must face the consequences. And in the end, their crimes will overshadow all of their past legislative accomplishments."

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