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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: Time, finally, to move forward on Towne case

THE ISSUE: Donnelly will stay off Towne case
OUR VIEW: Serious allegations must be handled with utmost purity of justice system

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

It’s unlikely Rush drummer Neil Peart was thinking about the Illinois Supreme Court when he wrote those lyrics some 40 years ago, but they certainly ring true today in the wake of the news that the state’s top justices won’t consider the appeal of La Salle County State’s Attorney Karen Donnelly, who has been fighting for years for the right to prosecute her predecessor, Brian Towne.

A bit of procedural history, for context: Donnelly defeated Towne in November 2016. Within a year, a La Salle County grand jury indicted Towne on 17 felony counts of official misconduct and application of funds. In November 2017, Circuit Judge Clark Erickson removed Donnelly as prosecutor in the matter, finding it possible she had a personal bias against a political opponent.

Following Donnelly’s removal, the court appointed former judge Gregory McClintock, of Monmouth, as the prosecuting attorney. Exercising her rights, Donnelly appealed Erickson’s decision, but in February of this year an Illinois Appellate Court panel determined it lacked jurisdiction to hear that appeal, which effectively enforced Erickson’s ruling that in the idea of fairness to all sides, it was best to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

In a March hearing, Erickson said he was waiting for a mandate missing from the appellate court ruling that would determine whether the case could be put into motion, stalling proceedings. Then last week, the Illinois Supreme Court officially announced it won’t review the appellate decision, making it all but certain the case is cleared to move forward under the terms Erickson established 18 months ago.

And so, we reiterate a position long held: We support the grand jury’s findings and feel the allegations against Towne should be put to trial. Further, we respect the argument that the best way to manage this case is to have Donnelly sidelined. That way, if Towne is found guilty and convicted, it will be on the merits of the case alone and there won’t be any way for him to claim bias alone brought him down.

We hope even those who voted for Donnelly understand the importance of keeping this matter as clean as possible. We take no issue with her decision to exercise the rights afforded her and her office under the justice system, as everyone is entitled to the proper appeals process.

The accusations against Towne are deeply serious, and it is of the utmost importance that any proceedings be conducted with the highest degree of purity so that whenever the final gavel drops, no matter the outcome, we all can feel confident justice has truly been served.

Now, finally, we can begin to proceed toward a resolution.

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