Democrat State Senator Charged With Bribery in Connection to Red-Light Camera Scandal

[Photo Credit: By Jamie McCaffrey from Ottawa, Canada - Central and North Chicago, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25452388]

State Sen. Emil Jones III has been charged with federal bribery three years after allegedly lying to the FBI about whether he committed to defend the politically connected red-light camera firm SafeSpeed LLC in the Illinois General Assembly. The South Side Democrat, a deputy majority leader, has been in the Legislature since 2009 and is the son of former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. The younger Jones is also charged with making a false statement to the feds on September 24, 2019.

Jones is the latest lawmaker to face charges in the federal probe into red-light cameras deployed by SafeSpeed LLC, a once-powerful camera firm that gained contracts to run red-light cameras in over two dozen Chicago suburbs, generating millions of dollars in penalties from motorists each year. The investigation, which focused on the illegal efforts used to smooth the way for the cameras and the lucrative traffic penalties they created, blew wide open in 2019 when authorities searched the offices of then-state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who at the time was leading the state Senate’s powerful Transportation Committee.

The allegations against Jones III were filed by prosecutors in a document which normally indicates a defendant’s intention to plead guilty. Following Thomas Cullerton, he would be the Senate’s second member to plead guilty to a federal offense this year. Because of the strange timing of the allegations, Jones III, who was previously vying for re-election, will almost certainly still be on the November ballot regardless of how his case plays out. Illinois Senate President Don Harmon has requested that Jones III resign from his leadership position and as the chair of the Senate’s Licensed Activities committee on Tuesday.

Jones’ father, Jones Jr. in a statement claimed that the charges brought by prosecutors ‘do not reflect the man he is.’ Jones Jr. is also a longtime member of the Illinois Democratic machine, and played a key role in the rise of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Jones’ annual salary as a state senator is $72,906 per year in addition to the $11,098 he receives as a stipend for being chairman of the Licensed Activities committee.

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