Former Senator Jeff Smith Will Likely Go to the Marion, Illinois, Clinker

Share on Nextdoor
Jeff Smith remains free on bond -- until he gets the letter from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons telling him where and when to report.
Jeff Smith remains free on bond -- until he gets the letter from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons telling him where and when to report.
Susan Uchitelle wanted Jeff Smith to do more community service at Confluence Academy.

Vince Estrada wanted the former poli-sci instructor for Washington University to tutor students in the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District and help coach the St. Louis Eagles basketball team.

Martin Matthews asked that the former state senator be allowed to continue helping out at the Matthews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club.

All in exchange for prison time.

But U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson decided that no length of community service -- something Smith was previously known for -- would serve as punishment for the two obstruction of justice charges that he pled guilty to this past summer.

Smith's attorney, Richard Greenberg, had asked for house arrest and community service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith said it would be foolish to let Smith "live off of his substantial net worth" and requested a prison sentence of fifteen to 21 months.

Judge Jackson didn't quite meet them halfway: She went with twelve months and a day, plus a $50,000 fine and two years' supervised release.

(The twelve months and a day is a technicality that can result in a defendant with good behavior being released before the end of the term.)

Jackson honored Greenberg's request to ask the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for a bed at the Marion, Illinois, penitentiary so Smith can be close to his family and friends -- some of whom were in court this morning.

In a pre-sentence statement to Judge Jackson, Smith made no excuses for his actions.

Of his original crime -- approving his campaign's assistance with an anti-Carnahan mailer, and then concealing that act when questioned by the Federal Elections Commission in 2004 -- Smith said: "I wanted any advantage I thought I could get...I was raised better than that. But I thought the ends justified the means."

As for the second obstruction of justice, which came earlier this year, when Smith lied repeatedly to the FBI and was caught on tape trying to blame his actions on a young campaign staffer who committed suicide, Smith stated: "I loved my job. I wanted to keep it. And I thought I could weather the storm."

Smith went on: "My nightmare was for all of this to come out."

He described his parents' shame and embarrassment when neighbors and friends tried to figure out what to say to them.

Judge Jackson said she received an overwhelming number of letters on Smith's behalf -- perhaps more than 100. The government received at least one letter unfavorable to Smith. (That document is sealed from the public, along with numerous other filings in the case.) 

Among those besides Uchitelle, Estrada and Matthews who wrote on Smith's behalf were Dr. Sherman Silber and students whom Smith tutored over the years. (The court informs Daily RFT that these letters are also sealed.)

One letter on Smith's behalf portrayed the original crime as "a college prank gone amuck," according to Goldsmith, the prosecutor.

"I have to think, Mr. Smith, that when I read the letters people wrote for you, and I read excerpts from the transcripts of the recordings," said Judge Jackson, "I'm sure a lot of people are wondering, Who is the real Jeff Smith?"

Jackson praised Smith for his "stellar record" of community service but agreed with Goldsmith that the crimes merited a harsher punishment in order to deter other public servants from behaving badly.

The courtroom was silent after Jackson meted out the sentence.

Brown and his attorney, Art Margulis, proceeded to make haste for the men's room, avoiding a gaggle of reporters, who subsequently swarmed around Smith.

The former public servant read haltingly from a typed statement as his parents moved in to listen. His mother began to cry, and Smith embraced her.   

About The Author

Scroll to read more St. Louis Metro News articles (1)


Join Riverfront Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.