Pat O'Brien: Candidate profile
Office sought: Cook County state's attorney
Family: Diane (wife), Michael (son)
Occupation: Attorney, self-employed
Education: University of Notre Dame, B.A.; DePaul Law School, J.D.
Civic involvement: Attorney for Chicago Police Board
Elected offices held: Cook County circuit court judge, 2006-2015
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 am running for Cook County State's Attorney because the office was critical in my training as an attorney and my growth as an individual. I owe a great deal to that office and the men and women who served before, during, and after me. Under State's Attorney Bernard Carey and his successors, the prosecutors with more experience accepted the responsibility of training less experienced prosecutors in how to be trial attorneys and the duty of representing all the people, including the accused, and that tradition was carried forward.
The bedrock of the office is the community's trust in the integrity of its decisions. Though everyone may not agree with a particular decision, it is essential that everyone trust that the decision was made based on the law and facts and not upon political influence or personal agenda. Kim Foxx broke that trust in dismissing the Jussie Smollett case, then lying about her reasons.
I chose to run for State's Attorney because Kim Foxx has lost the confidence of the community, harmed the reputation of the office and its Assistants, and made the County less safe by her actions.
2. How pertinent is the Jussie Smollett case to this election? If it should have been handled differently, how so?
The Jussie Smollett case encapsulates, in a single case, all that is wrong with Kim Foxx's administration. However, it is merely the most visible of her problems.
Ms. Foxx made the following mistakes:
-- She interfered with a criminal investigation at the request of a politically connected person.
-- She displayed an ignorance of the law when she recused herself without knowing that the office was also recused. She tried unsuccessfully to keep the dismissal of the case hidden from public attention. She dismissed the prosecution as if it was a deferred prosecution yet ignored the requirements of the deferred prosecution statute.
-- She was deceitful in her explanations.
I would have handled it as follows:
-- An experienced prosecutor should have been assigned to handle the matter from investigation through disposition with timely updates to supervisors. Mr. Smollett should have been subpoenaed to testify, and if he lied, a perjury count to the indictment should have been added. After Smollett's arrest, the case should have been kept on its scheduled court dates. If Smollett did not admit guilt, then proceed to trial. At sentencing, make a recommendation within the guidelines based upon the information developed by the probation department.
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 a central issue due to the prior convictions which have been vacated, the deferred prosecution for lesser offenses, and the bail reform statute. Each of those areas have presented challenges to the office to keep the trust of the Community, while vigorously prosecuting criminal offenses.
Criminal Justice Reform was addressed under prior State's Attorneys. The Conviction Integrity Unit began under State's Attorney Devine. This unit should continue to investigate new information brought forward by prisoners. The deferred prosecution initiative was started by State's Attorney Alvarez. First time offenders are given a second chance to clear their record. It provides a valuable opportunity for the office to redirect persons from becoming career criminals.
The new bail statute was championed by Ms. Foxx. It does address financial inequities; however, it leaves thousands of defendants inadequately supervised while on release. I would have the Felony Review Unit monitor compliance reports of those defendants and report any violations to the Judge. Institute an office policy in which all violent crimes are tried within two years of formal charging with a goal of reducing the time to eighteen months.
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?
Violent crime should be the office's first priority without disregarding its overall responsibility to pursue all criminal violations. Violent crime can be grossly divided into gang motivated and non-gang motivated crime. To address gang motivated crime, a new Rackets Unit would be created which combines prosecutors with experience in gang, narcotic, and gun cases. Additional grand jury or juries would be employed to investigate and prosecute the gang hierarchies. Gangs exert a chilling influence over our community and gang related homicides constitute the majority of unsolved murders.
Gang and non-gang motivated violent crime including murders and sexual assaults would receive the highest priority in courtrooms for speedy resolution within two years. Prosecutors would compile weekly case lists which would be reviewed by their supervisors to ensure the policy was carried out.
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?
The number of Assistant State's Attorneys in the office has been reduced from over 900 in the 1990s to just over 700 presently. Clearly, there is a need to ensure that the office priorities are in line with present staffing. The Felony Review Unit has over forty Assistants who work eight-hour days. I would increase shift hours, and reduce the number of Assistants to approximately thirty, and shorten their stay in the unit. The number of Assistants in the Public Corruption Unit has been reduced and should be increased.
The office must press the County Board for additional Assistant positions for Juvenile, Gang, and Public Corruption. There must be additional money for witness and victim relocation in gang cases. If the county refuses, I would then initiate grant proposals to seek money from the federal government to fund the new Rackets Unit for adult and juvenile offenders, and relocation funds.
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.
I would form a new Rackets Unit to attack the hold that gangs have on the community. Using investigative tools such as the grand jury, this unit would investigate and work to reduce the number of past unsolved murders and investigate all future gang motivated murders. With the possible exception of supervisory positions, this unit would be staffed by personnel already in the office. It would necessitate money and resources for relocation of victims and witnesses to ensure their safety. If the County Board refused the funds, I would apply for federal grant money.