Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: Will State's Attorney
Family: Married, five children
Occupation: Attorney Will County State's Attorney
Education: Joliet Catholic High School, 1968 University of Illinois, 1972 Northern Illinois University School of Law, 1981
Civic involvement: Will County Children's Advocacy Center Board of Directors, Chairman; Illinois State's Attorney's Association, Member; Joliet City Center Partnership, Board Member;
Elected offices held: Will County State's Attorney 1992-2000; 2004-Present.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
My proposed agenda for the next term is to build upon initiatives we have enacted over the course of the past year. One of those important initiatives is our newly created Veterans and Servicemembers Court, which provides critical treatment, counseling and assistance to local veterans and servicemembers who have struggled with mental health and substance abuse disorders since returning home from military operations. Earlier this year, I filed a petition seeking to establish the Veterans Court, which currently functions as a program within our existing Drug Court. Presiding Drug Court Judge Carla Alessio Policandriotis accepted the first veteran into our Veterans Court in May. My goal over the next year is to expand the court and improve outreach and screening within our community so that other veterans who have committed non-violent offenses can be directed to the program where they will receive the treatment and assistance they need and deserve.
Key Issue 2
We must continue our fight in the coming years to warn the public, particularly our young people, about the dangers of using heroin. Will County has been slammed by the heroin epidemic with 30 overdose deaths last year and the potential to far surpass those numbers in 2012. The prosecutors in my Drug Unit continue to hammer hard on dealers at all levels. However, the attorneys and addictions specialists in our Drug Court, where we seek to rehabilitate non-violent drug abusers, are grappling with the devastating effects of this powerfully addictive and dangerous drug. Earlier this year, my office joined forces with HERO (Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization) and Will County HELPS (Heroin Education Leads to Preventive Solutions) to inform the public and raise the alarm about this public health crisis. We held an educational summit at Lewis University that attracted hundreds of law enforcement professionals, addiction specialists, teachers and concerned parents. We went into the schools and churches to inform parents about the signs of heroin addiction in their children. And we're partnering with the Robert Crown Centers for Health Education to introduce an educational program into our local schools in the near future. These grassroots educational endeavors must supplement our aggressive law enforcement tactics on the streets and in the courthouse if we are to succeed in reducing the demand for heroin.
Key Issue 3
Another key goal is to expand the High Technology Crimes Unit I launched earlier this year to investigate and prosecute people who download and view child pornography over the Internet. I used money seized from criminal enterprises to fund computer equipment and a part-time investigator who specializes in tracking down Internet predators who target our children. This unit already has built cases against more than a dozen individuals who have been downloading child pornography. I currently am working with the Will County Board to direct permanent funding toward this unit to purchase additional equipment and hire a full-time investigator. In a related move, I am drafting legislation that would enable law enforcement to seize assets used by those who create, download or disseminate child pornography. This funding could be used to expand High Technology Crimes Units and Computer Crimes Labs where computers are analyzed and evidence is gathered. Funding also could be used to expand Children's Advocacy Centers, where children who have lived with these defendants are interviewed to determine whether they have been the victims of sexual abuse, and if they have been victimized, to ensure they are provided proper medical and social services.
How can the state's attorney's office be improved upon? What changes in operation do you propose? Please be specific.
One of my goals is to continue to provide training for attorneys and support staff to handle specialized areas of prosecution. My office over the years has implemented and trained legal teams to prosecute domestic violence, narcotics and gang-related crimes. The prosecutors in these units have consistently proven to be among the best in the state in their areas of expertise. This type of training will continue by directing attorneys toward other areas of specialized prosecution for which they have an affinity, interest or expertise. These include child abuse, financial crimes, crimes against senior citizens, arson, animal abuse and veterans affairs, to name but a few.
What is the proper starting salary for an assistant state's attorney in Will County? How would you fund raises for state's attorney employees so they can keep pace with other counties?
Our current starting salary for an attorney is $53,000. I have worked closely with county leaders and the union that represents our attorneys over the years to make certain the starting salary and contractual pay raises are commensurate with surrounding counties. Funding raises has proven to be a challenge in recent years as the county leadership has tightened the budget in response to difficult economic times. In response, I have reduced expenses by eliminating administrative positions, primarily through attrition, to ensure that we may continue funding salaries for prosecutors and support staff. As a result, I have asked my top administrators to work smarter and shoulder additional burdens. Where possible, we also have pursued federal grants and utilized criminal forfeiture funding or money generated by fines for criminal offenses to supplement compensation packages and other expenses for our attorneys and support staff.
What improvements do you propose in the use of technology by the state?s attorney?s office? Be specific.
I strive to provide my attorneys and support staff with the latest affordable technologies so they can perform their duties with the greatest efficiency. The 12th Judicial Circuit currently is researching the integration of our technology networks so that law enforcement agencies at every level will be able to communicate with the courts with speed and ease. This will enable us to better track cases as they move through the judicial system. Within my office, my Information Technologies experts are constantly reviewing the latest technological developments to meet the needs of a 21st Century legal office. In recent years, we began conducting high-quality mandatory legal education courses online for the convenience of our attorneys and to reduce the amount of time they spend out of the office. We also are exploring ways make other technological advances more widely available to our staff, including dictation software that will dramatically reduce the amount of time attorneys and secretaries spend typing reports. We are also researching case management systems and are working with grant researchers to identify grant funding opportunities to fund this technology.
Describe the state?s attorney?s office?s conviction rate. Are you satisfied with the number of convictions versus the number of plea deals? Why or why not?
My office charges between 2,700 and 3,000 new felony cases each year, and my prosecutors close out roughly 2,800 cases annually. We do not charge cases or arrive at dispositions with a conviction rate in mind. Our mission is to protect the public and serve the interests of justice. These are the goals my attorneys consider as they take felony cases to trial or enter discussions regarding pleas. Having noted this point, my office has maintained an overall felony conviction rate that has averaged 15 points higher than the state's felony conviction rate for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. This office also has consistently posted higher overall felony conviction rates than the state as well as Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake Counties between 2005 and 2010. These statistics are based on annual uniform reports by circuit clerks to the Illinois Courts and are available for review online at the Illinois Supreme Court's Web site. State and collar county statistics have yet to be posted for 2011.
Describe efforts the state?s attorney?s office has or should make in the area of crime prevention.
Crime prevention has always been an important component of my administration. Our primary mission is to protect the public by aggressively prosecuting crimes. However, we also must reach out to people at the grassroots level to educate them about the potential dangers they may face. To accomplish this goal, I established a Crime Prevention Bureau that sends experts from my staff ? specialists in the areas of gang awareness, Internet safety, identity theft, financial crime, crimes against senior citizens, substance abuse and drunken driving, to name a few ? into the community to meet with police officers, senior citizens, veterans, educators, parents, students and the business leaders to discuss the critical issues that impact them. Furthermore, as stated earlier, my office launched a major educational initiative in partnership with HERO and Will County HELPS to warn young people about the potentially fatal danger of using heroin. My office engages in such outreach because I firmly believe that well-informed citizens are less likely to fall victim to crime.