Illinois (ECWd) -
When we fail to address violations of law by public officials at the local level, it festers and desensitizes us to the importance of our laws. Those officials who are allowed to get away with breaking our laws move up the chain to be County, State, and even US representatives and Judges. They take the local mindset of ignoring or not being able to even recognize malfeasance right along with them to those higher offices. Thus the problem grows.
For years I have spoken about what I believe are the two most powerful positions in public office in our local Government.
The first being the Supervisor of Assessments, as they control the assessed property value numbers which is used to determine how much rent you pay to the government for your property. They control property tax, and we all understand the phrase, “follow the money”.
The second is every County’s State’s Attorney. They are the top law enforcement officer in the county and control who does or does not get away with crimes.
This segment of a two part series is going to first focus on State’s Attorneys and how they are contributing to the demise of our state, from the local level. Forgive me for the length, which is sad because we only expose one specific problem and there is so much more to talk about.
We begin with Edgar County, where our organization began and continues to expose corruption,
- Edgar County’s former Sheriffs Karl Farnham and Tim Crippes illegally sold seized guns to include Crippes selling a gun with a filed off serial number in violation of federal and state law – Upon discovery, Edgar County State's Attorney Mark Isaf did nothing. (2012 article here)
- Crippes also sold seized guns to his deputies - Edgar County State's Attorney Mark Isaf did nothing.
Farnham is now a County Board member and Crippes got a Secretary of State job after losing his election upon exposure of two now convicted corrections officers working for him who were having sex with inmates, and he attempted to sweep it under the rug. Had the State’s Attorney enforced the law and prosecuted these alleged crimes of the Sheriffs, which are felonies, neither would be milking the taxpayers for their living to this day.
Perry County’s former Sheriff Keith Kellerman is another one selling guns – State's Attorney did nothing. (Coverage in 2012)
- Coles County’s former Sheriff Darrel Cox illegally sold seized guns that had court orders for them to be disposed of – Coles County State’s Attorney Brian Bower did nothing….other than sending a letter to stop.
- Cox, who operates a gunsmith business, billed the county for gunsmithing work, which violates state law – Coles County State’s Attorney Brian Bower did nothing.
Cox attempted to run for State Representative, and fortunately lost, as his mind-set of “the law didn’t apply to him” garnered little support from the voters. He now collects a retirement, however, had the State’s Attorney enforced the law, he too would more than likely not be milking the taxpayer for his pension as the illegal gun sales and self-dealing would fall under Official Misconduct during the performance of his duties, which if convicted is a felony. (Coverage in 2015)
- Effingham County’s Former Sheriff John Monnet gave county property away, a gun- State’s Attorney Biran Kibler did nothing. We understand he too is now retired on a taxpayer pension that could have been stripped from him had he been prosecuted and convicted for giving away public property. (Coverage of that in 2013)
Please realize we are only focusing on a particular pattern of practice we are finding in this state, gun sales by police agencies and State’s Attorneys who will not prosecute them.
None of the above examples were ever prosecuted and only in the case of Darrel Cox was there any investigation, although the Illinois State Police now claim to have no records of an investigation. Pretty strange considering they are the ones who met with myself and State Representative Brad Halbrook to discuss the findings of their investigation, and they let us know the State’s Attorney was not going to do anything. While we were assured by the ISP that our findings sent shock waves across the state as it related to illegal gun sales, they assured us the practice has been stopped.
Considering the law pertaining to selling guns was not being enforced, we took steps to have the law changed to allow such sales. Why not? If they are not going to follow the law and not going to prosecute those who violate the law, why not change the law to make their actions legal and put some money back into our local government and ease the burden on the taxpayer?
Seems logical, as that is exactly what was done for LaSalle County’s former State’s Attorney Brian Towne. After getting exposed for using seized funds in violation of law, he lobbied the legislature to make his once illegal use of funds legal. Presto! Break the law, change the law! (Coverage of that February of 2017)
Not the case with guns sales though.
Representative Halbrook has been attempting to pass legislation which would allow guns to be sold after seeing no one was prosecuting those violating the current law. It is clear, the Illinois Appellate Courts, Illinois State Police, and our Legislature have confirmed, the sale of guns is NOT allowed under current law. Halbrook's current legislation can be found at this link, yet it appears dead on arrival. A few years ago it flew out of the House with majority Democrat support only to be killed in the Senate.
So for now, the law does not allow the selling of seized weapons.
That brings us to Jasper County. During a recent County Board meeting, we were shocked to hear, with the assistance of the State’s Attorney and Judge Daniel Hartigan (former State’s Attorney), they too are moving towards the practice of selling seized weapons in contradiction of state law. They have gone to the point of creating a complaint, “The people of the State of Illinois vs. “a list of over 100 guns” to obtain an order turning over the guns to the Sheriff. Of interest in the complaint is they are planning on selling some guns with no serial numbers listed as well as a sawed off 410 shotgun.
In the complaint, they are all "abandon guns" and attempt to use 7656 ILCS 1030/1- "Law Enforcement Disposition of Property Act as the legal justification for their actions, all while ignoring the specific law created to deal with weapons., 720 ILCS 5/24-6 - "Confiscation and Disposition of weapons."
In the County's response to my FOIA request, the State's Attorney confirmed this list is of seized weapons. After further questioning, he now claims they are abandon and that they are not holding any seized weapons? Love how the story changes as questions are asked. If any of those guns are in fact confiscated weapons, did the State's Attorney file a false complaint before the court by claiming they are abandoned?
This happens to be the same State’s Attorney that had a person arrested for refusing to pay for taking a picture of a public record with his own phone. No charges have been filed in that case yet, nor do we believe there ever will be as the courts have ruled you can not charge a person for taking a picture or scanning a public record with their own device.
He is the same State’s Attorney we believe allowed the Open Meeting Act to be violated during the meeting we attended. More on that after we receive our FOIA response.
My attempt to talk with him after the meeting was met with a clear negative attitude and a refusal to talk to me. I recall his statement was, “I have nothing to say to you”. OK, I'll type, you can read!
The above few examples of Sheriffs, State’s Attorneys, and even a Judge, is the perfect example of why local government must be fixed and an independent oversight mechanism created to take local public corruption cases out of the control of local State's Attorneys.
The Edgar County State’s Attorney has made it clear from day one; his goal is to be a judge, which would be disastrous in light of his track record as a State’s Attorney who refuses to prosecute local government crime.
Even though I don’t agree with the vast majority of the actions of the Coles County State's Attorney, I do agree with his one statement in his letter to law enforcement as it relates to selling guns.
720 ILCS 5/24-6 sets forth the protocol for the handling of confiscated weapons. Law Enforcement may with court permission destroy weapons, use the weapons for Departmental use, or tender the weapons to Illinois State Police. The court in People v. Kleefman, 90 Ill.App.3d 1,412 N.E.2d 1057, 45 Ill.Dec. 475 (1980), specifically held "sales of such weapons are unauthorized."
Jasper County drives our point home. The Judge who signed the order on the guns, he is a former Jasper County State's Attorney. When the State's Attorney is not being kept in check by our Judges, we are in even bigger trouble.
When we are able to figure out what the law says, and we are not attorneys, how can we trust State’s Attorneys who later become judges and sign orders to sell guns when our laws and even the Appellate Court says you can't do that? We must figure out a way to hold negligent State’s Attorneys accountable to the rule of law because if we don’t, we have no rule of law. They are the single most powerful public official we have, in my opinion, because their actions set the path of our future. When they fail to apply the law to themselves and other public officials, those very people move up the chain to higher office and they become Judges, as has been the case in so many counties in this state. How can we expect those judges to follow the law when they failed to follow it or enforce it in their previous positions?
We encourage any and all ideas on how to address the local corruption problem and we believe a good start is some kind of entity or task force that has the power to take local government corruption out of the hands of the State's Attorneys who refuse to prosecute clear cases of wrong doing because they are simply too close to those people or too stupid to understand our laws.