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Powerful Illinois Politician Responds To Photo Enforcement Bribery Charge
Illinois State Senator Emil Jones III entered a not guilty plea Friday to charges he took bribes from the co-founder of red light camera company Safespeed.

Emil Jones III
By Richard Diamond

Illinois State Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) appeared in federal court today on charges that he took bribes from the politically connected red light camera provider Safespeed. Appearing before US District Judge Andrea R. Wood, Jones entered a not guilty plea in response to allegations that he took cash from the photo enforcement firm's co-founder in return for legislative actions that promoted automated enforcement. Jones in the tenth to be charged in the ongoing Safespeed scandal.

In 2019, Jones introduced state Senate Bill 1297, which ordered the Illinois Department of Transportation to conduct a statewide study about how traffic cameras are deployed, with recommendations to be provided to the General Assembly. Jones agreed to amend his bill to limit its application to Chicago -- excluding other cities from scrutiny after Safespeed co-founder Omar Maani handed him $5000. Safespeed held most of the red light camera contracts outside of Chicago.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation learned of Maani's photo enforcement-related corruption and offered him a deal. He could avoid being imprisoned if he agreed to wear a wire while continuing to bribe state officials. Evidence against Jones includes such recordings as well as emails.

Jones is part of a powerful political family. His father, Emil Jones II, was the state Senate president with his own history of ethical problems. In the corruption case against former Governor Rod Blagojevich (D), evidence was presented showing Blagojevich agreed to appoint the elder Jones to fill the US Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated to run for president. Blagojevich's one condition was that Jones had to use his power in the Senate to kill an ethics reform bill. According to testimony, Obama called Jones and told him to pass the ethics bill to prevent any damage to his presidential run.

Jones is charged with lying to the FBI, bribery and racketeering. He faces a maximum of twenty years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The court set a November 4 date for the next hearing on the case and released Jones on an unsecured, $10,000 bond.

A few months ago, Maani's business partner, Sunggoo Samuel Joh, entered a not guilty plea to the charges of tax evasion and filing a false tax return. It is not yet clear whether the charges are related to Maani's photo ticketing scheme, or unrelated real estate projects with Presido Capital, as US District Judge Charles R. Norgle placed a gag order on the case. Judge Norgle agreed with prosecutors who objected to disclosure of "wiretap materials, whose unrestricted dissemination could adversely affect law enforcement interests."

The court on Wednesday granted Joh permission to travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for his honeymoon, even though he is under indictment and free on an unsecured bond of $4500.

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