State senator faces federal bribery charges in red-light camera scheme

State senator faces federal bribery charges in red-light camera scheme

Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III is the latest politician charged with bribery as well as lying to the FBI in a corruption probe involving red-light cameras.

Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III has been hit with federal bribery charges related to a federal investigation into red-light cameras dating back to 2019.

Jones was charged Sept. 20 through a criminal information document and not a grand jury indictment, a common sign of a guilty plea.

The South Side Democrat allegedly sought $5,000 in bribes in exchange for keeping a study of red-light cameras from including the Chicago suburbs. The charge states he later lied to FBI agents about it.

Since Jones III was appointed in 2009 by his father, former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., he’s run unopposed. He sits on eight state Senate committees and serves as vice chair of the public safety committee, crucial to red-light camera bills.

Former SafeSpeed partner Omar Maani was charged separately, but the company hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. Maani has been cooperating with the FBI since 2020.

Jones is the latest public official with corruption charges stemming from red-light cameras. Others include the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval, former Crestwood Mayor Lou Presta, former Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski and former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci.

An Illinois Policy Institute investigation found the cameras cost Illinoisans over $1 billion between 2008 and 2018. They also fostered corruption as politicians were courted to secure lucrative intersections and obtain access.

Corruption costs Illinoisans $550 million in lost economic activity every year, but SafeSpeed cameras have been a common denominator. How many more public corruption charges will it take before lawmakers decide to remove the cameras?

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