There was a time when Nemura Pencyla thought he'd rather be a judge than a prosecutor. But all that changed once he interned as a law clerk in Cook County.
It was there, Pencyla says, that he began to develop a passion for helping victims and a drive to hold criminals accountable.
"One of the best things about the job is, you get to right a wrong, Pencyla said. "You get to speak for victims and parts of society who don't have a voice.
On Oct. 21, Pencyla embarks on the next chapter of his career as he leaves the Kane County state's attorney's office after nine years to become a first assistant prosecutor in Kendall County.
Pencyla, known around the courthouse as "Mu for short, is not alone in considering the move bittersweet. Even those who have gone up against him in court say he'll be missed.
"He's an incredibly competent prosecutor and a good person, Aurora defense attorney David Camic said. "He's the kind of prosecutor that, even if there appears to be light streaming through the window and he tells me I need an umbrella, I grab an umbrella.
Pencyla, 40, who grew up in Downers Grove, came to Kane County in October 2001 after six years as a DuPage County prosecutor.
A graduate of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, he went on to successfully prosecute some of Kane County's most notorious cases, including those of Michael Luciano, an Aurora gang member who is now serving a life sentence for two murders. He also set the stage for drug-induced homicide cases by landing convictions in the first two in the area and, in 2007, was named Prosecutor of the Year for his work on a series of cold-case indictments known as "Operation First Degree Burn.
"He's always been admired for his singled-minded goal of cleaning up Kane County, said Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams, who worked with Pencyla for all of his nine years in Kane County. "It's going to be difficult to replace his tenacity.
Pencyla said he hopes to return to Kane County to see through a few of his bigger cases that are still pending, including that of Hector Mauricio, who recently pleaded guilty to murdering elderly World War II veteran Roscoe Ebey in Aurora Township and is now awaiting sentencing.
"Someone who commits a crime violates the community responsibility that we all have to follow the law, Pencyla said. "And someone needs to make sure that person gets brought before the public and is subject to judgment. It all comes down to people taking responsibility.
Steck update: Another trial delay has been granted in the case of Robert Steck, a former middle schoolteacher accused of molesting three young boys.
Steck, 41, of Aurora, had been scheduled for the third time to stand trial on Sept. 27, nearly four years after he was charged. But the trial was delayed until Dec. 13 due to a medical situation involving a state witness who is expected to testify, his attorney said.
Steck is a former coach and teacher at Aurora's Cowherd Middle School. In October 2006, he was charged with sexually abusing three boys between the ages of 11 and 13.
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