Illinois state senator Emil Jones III is due to be indicted Friday on federal charges, accusing him of taking bribes from a director of a red light company in exchange for killing legislation that was contrary to the company’s interests.

Jones, 44, a Democrat from the Far South, was indicted in a criminal report of bribery and lying to federal agents. He is to formally appeal the charges during a telephone hearing before US District Judge Andrea Wood.

Defendants accused on the basis of information, as opposed to a jury prosecution, usually intend to plead guilty. Jones has not spoken publicly about his case, and his lawyers have not responded to requests for comment.

The hearing is taking place under increasing pressure on Jones to step down from the position he held since 2009, when his powerful father, then Senate President Emil Jones Jr., appointed him to a vacancy.

Governor JB Pritzker on Thursday called on Jones to resign on Thursday, the day after Jones resigned his unpaid deputy chairman of the Democratic Senate and his $ 11,098 commission chairperson a year at the request of Senate President Don Harmon.

Jones also runs unopposed in the November 8 general election. Even if he resigns, his name is likely to remain on the ballot due to early voting and postal ballots.

Jones’s father was one of the most powerful Democrats in a machine state who has frequently fought off allegations of nepotism and famously accelerated Barack Obama’s burgeoning political career. In a statement on Tuesday, the former president of the Senate defended his son, saying the allegations “do not reflect who he is.”

“Everyone knows he is an honest, hardworking legislator,” said Jones Jr. “I’m going to fight him and accompany him through this whole process.”

Jones III was the last politician to be charged in an extensive federal investigation into red light cameras installed by SafeSpeed ​​LLC, a once-strong camera company that secured traffic light camera contracts in nearly twenty Chicago suburbs that generated millions of dollars. fines from drivers annually.

Focusing on illegal attempts to lubricate the road to cameras, the investigation opened wide in 2019 when agents raided the office of then-Senator Martin Sandoval, who at the time was the head of the state Senate’s powerful Transportation Committee.

In February 2019, Jones introduced a bill to the Senate that would require the Illinois Department of Transportation to conduct a state-wide study of automated traffic law enforcement systems, including red light cameras such as those operated by SafeSpeed. Information.

Allegations allegedly Jones agreed with SafeSpeed ​​CEO and co-founder Omar Maani – who secretly collaborated with federal investigators – to “protect” SafeSpeed ​​by restricting all traffic research to the City of Chicago, excluding the suburbs where the company does most of its business .

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In return, Jones took $ 5,000 in benefits and wanted a job and additional payments to an unnamed associate, Individual B, according to fees. In August 2019, Jones told Maani that if he donated $ 5,000 by sponsoring the event, “they would not have to report that contribution” in state campaign funding reports.

On September 24, 2019, on the day of the FBI raid on Sandoval’s offices, Jones was questioned by agents. According to the allegations, he lied, saying that he had not agreed to protect SafeSpeed ​​in exchange for Maani hiring or paying Person B, and had not discussed with Maani any plan to avoid disclosure of campaign funding.

The records of the Illinois General Assembly show that Jones’s proposal was approved by the Senate Transport Commission on November 19, 2019, which at that time was no longer chaired by Sandoval as he resigned as panel chairman in October of that year. in the midst of a federal investigation.

Sandoval would eventually be indicted and plead guilty to bribery-related corruption, but died from complications with COVID-19 in December 2020 while working with the government.

The red camera investigation has so far trapped more than a dozen politicians, political activists and businessmen, many of whom have either contributed to SafeSpeed ​​as consultants or had a direct impact on how much money the company can raise.

SafeSpeed ​​and its CEO Nikki Zollar have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying Maani had acted without the company’s knowledge or approval. Maani is no longer associated with the company.

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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