May 23, 2024
Local News | The Times

Local News

Judge rules Towne's rights to speedy trial violated, case dismissed

Towne alleges case not based on facts, result of 'vindictive' state's attorney

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Former State's Attorney Brian Towne's guilt or innocence regarding charges of official misconduct and misuse of funds will not be tried in court.

A judge ruled Friday morning that Towne's speedy-trial rights were violated and all 17 felony counts of official misconduct and misuse of funds have been dismissed.

Towne's defense attorneys said in court July 19 their client's statutory and constitutional rights to a speedy trial had been violated — filing June 6 the motion to dismiss the case.

Following the judge's decision Friday, Towne embraced his family, including his mother who has been ill.

"The last 22 months have been hell for my family and for me and it's great for this day to come and for everything to be over," Towne said to media.

A small group of protestors held a sign that read "Thanks? Good Ole' Boyz!" outside of the court complex for a short period following the decision.

A La Salle County grand jury previously indicted Towne on 17 felony counts of official misconduct and misapplication of funds. In 2016, Towne was defeated by Karen Donnelly for state’s attorney. Less than a year after the election loss, he was indicted.

Towne alleged to media that the case was not based on facts but instead the result of a "vindictive" state's attorney – Karen Donnelly.

"It was not based on the law, it was not based on the facts. It was based on, in my opinion, several things that happened in the past," Towne said.

He cited actions such as when he "sent her son to prison" and also turned down Donnelly for a job based on her prior court performance as an intern in his office as reasons he believed Donnelly originally charged him. He stood by those previous decisions, noting he would do the same today.

He also said it's why Donnelly ran a "disgusting" campaign in the 2016 election.

"Her and her minions, many of whom I prosecuted and sent to prison, treated me and my family with such a deplorable attitude and such deplorable actions, I will never be able to forget that," Towne said.

Donnelly released a press release stating she was "disappointed" by the judge's ruling and that Towne had "escaped justice on a technicality."

"However, this office was not involved in the decisions that ultimately led to the dismissal of 17 felony counts," Donnelly said. "The fact remains that the people of the State of Illinois have been deprived of a chance to consider the mountain of evidence against Mr. Towne and today's ruling does not mean Towne is innocent of any of the charges filed against him."

"I was always concerned that once this office no longer had control of the prosecution that the system would find a way to sweep this under the rug without a trial," she added.

She further addressed any criticisms about the costs related to the prosecution of Towne, noting the special prosecutor's bill is a "pittance" compared to what La Salle County has paid defending Towne's actions while in office.

"That number is now approaching half (a) million dollars," she said.

How was his right to a speedy trial violated?

The clock for this trial began on Dec. 10 when Towne requested a speedy trial, which means proceedings should start 160 days from the point a defendant asks for trial. Under those parameters, a trial should have started by May 24.

Donnelly appealed to remain as prosecutor on the case. A special prosecutor, Gregory McClintock, a former judge from Monmouth, was appointed to replace Donnelly after the defense made its own motion to do so.

The Appellate Court ruled it did not have authority to hear Donnelly's appeal, then the Illinois Supreme Court denied consideration of her appeal May 22.

Circuit Judge Clark Erickson said at a March hearing he was waiting for a mandate from the Supreme Court from the appellate court ruling before he put the case into motion.

Towne's defense attorneys said July 19 since the appeal was unauthorized it does not stop the days from counting on a defendant's right to a speedy trial. They also cited a court case from 1994, People v. East-West University, which backed their claim.

McClintock countered the appointment of a special prosecutor was a special case, including new statutorial circumstances, which made it reasonable for Donnelly to appeal. The prosecutor said if it was as clear as the defense argued the Appellate Court would not have taken several months to have briefs filed and oral arguments heard.

Ultimately, Erickson dismissed the charges against Towne as the scenario was similar to that in the People vs. East-West University and as the appeal was made to an Appellate Court which lacked jurisdiction, the extended time was counted into Towne's request of a speedy trial.

Towne said following Friday's hearing that he's sought the office of La Salle County State's Attorney since age 16 and has not "done anything to bring disservice to the office, myself, or my family."

"I'm so happy this is over, so my family can get on with our lives," Towne said. "But this is not something I will soon forget."

Towne has most recently been working a "support role" in the appellate prosecutor's office and has had the support of his superior who will now give Towne an "official caseload" starting Monday.