McMahon going into private law practice, has no plans to run for public office

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said Monday he will go into private law practice after he steps down in November 2020, and rumors that he was going to make a run at the Kane County Board chairman post or the congressional seat held by Democrat Lauren Underwood are false.

“I still love this job today as much as the day I walked in here in 2010. When I came in, I knew this wasn't a job I would do forever,” said McMahon, who will have served 10 years as state's attorney. At this point, he doesn't know where or with whom his private practice will be, he said.

Speaking from his office at the Kane County Judicial Center, the 52-year-old Elgin Republican reflected on his tenure, which began in December 2010 when he was appointed to fill a vacancy after incumbent John Barsanti became a judge.

McMahon won elections in 2012 and 2016 as he ran unopposed. He declined to endorse a possible successor and said he wants to give people time to run for state's attorney in the spring 2020 primary and November 2020 general election.

McMahon said the county's next state's attorney must have a sense of humility and be a hard worker and a good listener with a thick skin.

“You don't have all the answers. You have to listen to a lot of other people and be willing to take advice,” he said, noting some defendants won't take advantage of second and even third chances they receive. “You have to be willing to be wrong very publicly and you're going to be judged through the lens of hindsight.”

Jamie Mosser, a former Kane County prosecutor, has declared her candidacy as a Democrat.

McMahon was pleased that during his time in office, he was able to get higher starting pay for lawyers in his office and the Kane County public defender's office, and said it's been rewarding to see younger lawyers grow and gain experience.

He said he is proud his office's Child Support Collection unit has been functional and successful despite state budget woes. He also wishes he could have done more to combat the opioid epidemic with more treatment programs, but he says he is pleased with the success of several diversion programs for first-time drug offenses and domestic violence.

McMahon gained national attention for leading a team of special prosecutors that secured a second-degree murder conviction in October 2018 against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times.

But McMahon said others will determine what legacy he leaves in Kane County and how he is ultimately is remembered.

For him, the job was always about achieving two goals: aggressive prosecution for violent crimes and holding others accountable for their actions without ruining their lives.

“I wanted this job because I felt then and I feel today very strongly that the state's attorney of the county has a really significant influence on how justice is delivered,” McMahon said. “I would like to be able to set a tone that I could be both. I can be really tough on crime and I can be generous with second chances for people who are not a long-term threat to public safety. A good prosecutor is someone who can achieve both those goals simultaneously.”

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Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon will not seek re-election

  Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon pauses before talking about his decision to not seek a third, 4-year term in 2020. Rick West/
  Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon will not run for re-election when his current term is up in November 2020. He said he will go into private law practice. Rick West/
  Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon talks about his time in office during an interview in St. Charles. McMahon said he will go into private practice and will not seek a third term in 2020. Rick West/
  Joe McMahon will not seek a third term in office as Kane County state's attorney. McMahon said he'll go into private law practice and has no plans to run for Kane County Board chairman or the congressional seat held by Democrat Lauren Underwood. Rick West/
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