Sen. Emil Jones III facing bribery charges connected with red light camera scheme

Sen. Emil Jones III talks to reporters on January 19, 2020.
Sen. Emil Jones III talks to reporters on January 19, 2020.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 3:26 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) is the latest Illinois state lawmaker to be charged with bribery. The son of former Senate President Emil Jones Jr. allegedly solicited money from a red light camera company to stop a proposal requiring new traffic studies for camera systems.

Federal prosecutors found that Jones told a leader from SafeSpeed that he would protect the company and the individual from legislation concerning the red-light cameras in exchange for $5,000 and a job for another individual. That conservation is tracked back to on or around July 17, 2019, and the SafeSpeed leader was cooperating with law enforcement.

Jones introduced a plan in February 2019 to require the Illinois Department of Transportation to conduct a statewide study of red light cameras, or automated traffic law enforcement systems. The proposal, Senate Bill 1297, called for IDOT to report the overall operation, usage, and regulation of red light cameras. It also required the state agency to propose recommendations for the cameras.

Prosecutors wrote that Jones agreed to oppose legislation requiring the study of red light cameras located outside of Chicago and would limit any proposals regarding IDOT’s study and recommendations surrounding the cameras in Chicago. Law enforcement argues that Jones accepted a $5,000 payment and an unnamed job for a colleague in return for blocking the red light camera legislation for SafeSpeed.

Jones is also charged with lying to the FBI and using a Gmail account for unlawful activity, namely bribery and official misconduct.

FBI investigators asked Jones on Sept. 24, 2019, if he agreed to protect SafeSpeed and the company leader from legislation concerning the operation of the red light cameras in exchange for hiring his colleague. Jones told the FBI that he did not. Investigators also asked if Jones discussed how the company could pay him without having to report the sum of money. Prosecutors note that the senator lied and said he had not. The FBI also asked if he knew how much money the company leader agreed to pay his colleague and Jones said he did not.

The 44-year-old is the latest official to be charged in the bribery scheme with SafeSpeed including former Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta, former Worth Township Supervisor John O’Sullivan, and former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci. The late Sen. Martin Sandoval was the most recent lawmaker to be charged in the scheme.

“The charges brought against my son, Emil Jones III, do not reflect the man he is. Everyone knows he is an honest, hardworking legislator,” said Emil Jones Jr. “I intend to fight with him and stand alongside him throughout this process.”

Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has already asked Jones III to resign from his leadership post and committee chairmanship.

“These are grave allegations. 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,” Harmon said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Illinois Republicans were quick to criticize Democrats for more corruption. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said 10 sitting or former elected Democratic state officials have been charged with public corruption in federal court over the last decade.

“The Democrat Party of Illinois has become an organized crime family whose only purpose is to shakedown Illinois taxpayers,” Durkin said. “Today’s indictment once again shows Illinois residents why Democrats refuse to pass real ethics reform; they are too corrupt.”

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