Bill Conway: Candidate profile
Office sought: Cook County state's attorney
Family: Brittany Conway (wife), Bella Conway (daughter)
Occupation: Professor at DePaul University; Pro Bono Criminal defense attorney; Intelligence Officer, United States Navy
Education: University of Pennsylvania, BS; Georgetown University, JD; University of Chicago, MBA
Civic involvement: Intelligence Officer in the United States Navy deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan from July 2017-April 2018; Board of A Better Chicago; volunteer, several Democratic political campaigns.
Elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: No
Questions and Answers
1. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I'm running for State's Attorney to enact balanced criminal justice reform, get after the gun crime epidemic that we have here in Cook County, and to get politics out of an office where it never belonged.
We really need to focus on the unequal justice that is being administered in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. We've seen a couple of instances where politically-connected people seem to be getting better deals than others.
Kim Foxx obviously gave Jussie Smollett a sweetheart deal and now we're learning even more about her deep ties to indicted Alderman Ed Burke. Burke held a fundraiser for Foxx at his home and then in 2017 when she became the State's Attorney, she signed off on a $2 million property tax settlement for one of Burke's clients, the largest one she signed off on in her first 11 months in office.
There is a two-tier justice system where politically-connected people are getting better deals. I have a clear, progressive vision for Cook County and a record that shows I can bring it to fruition.
2. How pertinent is the Jussie Smollett case to this election? If it should have been handled differently, how so?
The Jussie Smollett case is the highest profile example of politics ruling the State's Attorney's Office. Ms. Foxx decided to drop all 16 counts against the politically-connected celebrity and that's not right -- the case should have been handled the same way as any other case the office handles, like that of my client Candace Clark.
Candace was charged with the same crime as Smollett, but because she wasn't connected, she didn't get the Smollett deal. Instead she has to go to court every month, report to a probation officer every month, maintain a job, pay restitution, and get permission from a judge to even leave the county. No one thinks Jussie Smollett or Candace should have gone to jail -- they just should have gotten the same deal, and as State's Attorney I will make sure that everyone gets equal treatment, regardless of who they know.
3. How pertinent is criminal justice reform to this election? What should the state's attorney's office be doing in regards to that issue?
Criminal justice reform is one of the main issues I will tackle -- we need a balanced justice system that prioritizes humane treatment while ensuring dangerous offenders stay in jail. We're not getting that under our current State's Attorney.
People are getting arrested for gun crimes one day and then released the next, while nonviolent offenders are sitting in jail because of problems like drug addiction, mental illness, or not being able to afford bail. Right now, there are hundreds of people sitting in jail with bonds of $1,000 or less. We need to focus on violent and dangerous offenders to help solve our mass incarceration problem.
4. What crime should be the office's top target. Drugs? Gang violence? Child sex abuse? Something else? Why? What steps will you take to address the priorities as you see them?
While the State's Attorney's Office must go after all crime, one issue that we must do more on is targeting our gun violence epidemic. Last year, the Chicago Police Department seized more than 10,000 illegal guns -- about one every 48 minutes. In order to really get after the gun crime epidemic in our county, we need to disrupt the supply chain that brings all of these illegal guns into Cook County.
Under my administration, we will work with local officials to track the supply source all the way from the single gun recovery to significant gun trafficking.
We also need to ensure that people who commit crimes with guns go to jail. And perhaps most importantly, we need to break the cycle of economic disinvestment that for far too long has allowed this issue to run rampant. The citizens of Cook County deserve to live in neighborhoods safe from gun violence, and we can do more to adequately address the gun problem plaguing our communities.
5. Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the state's attorney's office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
We have a gun crime and public corruption epidemic. One way to better allocate resources to help go after both issues is by breaking down some of the silos that exist across the State's Attorney's Office to better share expertise across disciplines, increase communication among the office's bureaus, and move attorneys between departments.
When it comes to illegal guns, this would allow the office to better disrupt the supply chain by utilizing financial crimes prosecutors to better follow the money. The same could be said for corrupt public officials.
Additionally the State's Attorney's Office has had more cases per prosecutor than other cities for too long. I recognize our county's budgetary constraints -- that's why we need to look into realizing efficiency gains by updating technology and providing better training for evidence sharing and notification procedures.
Finally, by increasing the number of attorneys in our public corruption and financial crimes unit we can not only get after bad actors but save taxpayers money as well.
6. Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
It's crucial that we provide an opportunity for record expungement for people who were once convicted of crimes but have since proven they are no longer a danger to society.
Our current marijuana expungement efforts provide a road path for expunging other types of crime efficiently by collaborating with other elected officials as well as nonprofits at little cost to the taxpayer.
Additionally, one concrete program I would like to bring back is Theft School, a low cost diversion program that existed for first time theft offenders to reduce recidivism and hold first time offenders accountable without permanently damaging their record. I have already begun speaking with business owners and retailers who are interested in banding together to help fund this type of program.