Prosecutors and support staff at the Kane County state's attorney's office will try to fulfill some of the duties of advocates in the Victims' Rights Unit, which is being disbanded because the county lost out on a grant last month.
State's Attorney Joe McMahon said during his monthly media meeting Tuesday he also will work with domestic violence shelters -- Mutual Ground in Aurora and the Community Crisis Center in Elgin -- to see what support services they can provide.
"These victim advocates have been a tremendous resource to the community and this office to help people get through probably the most difficult emotional and physical experience of their life," McMahon said.
Last month, the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, which is a state agency that provides federal grants under the Victims of Crime Act, rejected a $104,368 grant for the state's attorney's office that would have helped pay salaries and benefits for three, full-time Victim Advocates.
Kane County would kick in $59,982, bringing the total to $164,350 for advocates who provide in-court support for violent crime victims, notifications of key court dates under the Victims Bill of Rights, and help victims obtain restitution.
The county had received the grant for more than 20 years; McMahon has appealed the matter and is reaching out to county board members as well as local representatives and state senators who represent the area.
In the meantime, two advocates have been reassigned to administrative positions and a third position, which was vacant, will remain unfilled. Victim advocates in the domestic violence and child's crimes units also will step in to assist and prosecuting attorneys will help, too, McMahon said.
The situation is particularly troubling for Margaret "Gretta" Morgan.
She endured almost a decade of court hearings and delays before her live-in boyfriend pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting and murdering Morgan's 20-month-old daughter, Quortney Kely, in Elgin in February 1997. Morgan is grateful for the support she received and she said her heart aches for victims and survivors who might not get the services they are entitled to under state law.
"I'm really surprised one of the largest counties gets the ax on that. Once again, victims in these cases take a back seat," said Morgan, noting it must be frustrating for the two former advocates to go to work at the courthouse but not do their old jobs. "It's like having your hands tied or watching somebody else eat while you're starving. It's pretty disgusting ... These are the people who need our help the most," Morgan said.