Democratic hopefuls for Kane state's attorney differ on body cameras, diversion program policy
Two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Kane County state's attorney differ on how police body camera evidence should be reviewed and whether people should plead guilty as a condition of getting into pretrial diversion programs.
Jamie Mosser, of St. Charles, says more prosecutors are needed to review hours upon hours of videos, whether it's from a police body camera, squad car camera or home security system, to properly evaluate cases.
Junaid "J" Afeef, of Elgin, wants more personnel to review police body camera video to monitor whether officers are turning them off to mask potential misconduct.
The winner between Democrats Afeef and Mosser in the March 17 primary will face Robert Spence, a Batavia Republican, in the Nov. 3 general election for the four-year seat. State's Attorney Joe McMahon is not seeking a third, full term.
In recent Daily Herald endorsement interviews and at Elgin Area League of Women Voter forums, both Democrats shared their positions.
Felony case filings are up 23.3 percent from 2015, and Mosser says more prosecutors are needed to review video evidence, which can be in the tens of hours even for a seemingly routine DUI arrest. For example, each squad car could have a video camera, and if five officers respond to a 2-hour incident, that's 10 hours of video to review.
"A prosecutor who has to do justice has to review every piece of evidence, not just sift through it, not wait for a defense attorney to bring something (exculpatory) to them," Mosser said.
Afeef wants a researcher or outside party to monitor overall police body camera use for potential abuses.
"So we can start cataloging cases where those videos are missing to see of there's a pattern of certain officers in certain types of cases where that video is not available," Afeef said. "Now, it might be for a good, benign reason, but you and I don't know that."
Both candidates agree that pretrial diversion programs are needed and appropriate for some types of first-time offenses. However, Afeef doesn't see the need to have a defendant plead guilty as a condition to enter a program.
"That's a problem," Afeef said. "We all know that if you have an addiction, you are going to have relapses and we know it's a long process to recovery. So a diversion program that requires an individual to admit guilt before he or she has a chance to avail him or herself of that opportunity simply doesn't work. So we need to get rid of that."
Mosser said it's important for a defendant to first accept responsibility and the county needs to "beef up" its diversion programs in general.
"It's important for them to admit their guilt," she said. "Most treatment providers are going to tell you those individuals are more successful in the beginning because they've admitted it and they own it."
In many Kane County diversion programs, a defendant will plead guilty, enter a program and once it is completed, prosecutors will vacate, or dismiss, the guilty plea. If that defendant fails to complete the program, prosecutors have a guilty plea in place and can move forward with a potential jail or prison sentence.
Early voting has begun at select locations and will run through March 16.