Much to the chagrin of Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden), Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City) today vowed to stay in office while he fights charges that he took bribes totaling $15,000when he ran for mayor of Jersey City earlier this year.
"I am guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States and the state of New Jersey with a presumption of innocence in the criminal proceedings against me," Smith wrote in a letter to Roberts. "I believe that resignation of my position as assemblyman is inconsistent with that presumption of innocence."
Upon receipt of Smith's letter, Roberts issued a statement reasserting his own initial response to the freshman assemblyman's legal predicament.
"Assemblyman Smith's decision is disappointing," said the Speaker."As I have said, the right to the presumption of innocence is a hallmark of our democracy, but serving in the Legislature is a privilege, not a right, and any member charged with criminal activity is incapable of effectively representing their constituents. My decision to suspend Assemblyman Smith's pay and benefits stands. This money belongs to the taxpayers."
The Jersey Journal reported on Tuesday that sources close to Smith said he was close to resigning.
Then he wrote the letter to Roberts today reasserting his innocence and promising to remain in the Assembly.