SYCAMORE – Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General Thomas DeVore told voters Saturday in Sycamore that he believes it’s not a coincidence that the SAFE-T Act’s elimination of cash bail isn’t set to go into effect until after the November election.
DeVore, a southern Illinois attorney, hosted a public event Saturday which he called an opportunity for area residents to ask questions and for him, a lawyer, to provide answers on the legislation which has picked up partisan controversy ahead of the November election. The event, attended by about two dozen people, was held at MVP’s Sports Bar in downtown Sycamore.
“The SAFE-T Act is a piece of legislation that was passed in a way you probably don’t really appreciate,” DeVore said.
Aspects of the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, known as the SAFE-T Act, such a police-worn body cameras have already gone into effect, but the elimination of cash bail won’t be implemented until Jan. 1, nearly two years after the legislation was passed in the General Assembly.
DeVore is running against incumbent Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul. The two debated earlier this month over Zoom. DeVore said during that debate he wouldn’t defend the SAFE-T Act in court if he became the next attorney general.
Debate over the measure has resurfaced in recent months as the law has become a partisan flashpoint in campaigns leading up to the November elections. Crime and safety have been issues in many political campaigns, and Republicans have used the law in an attempt to portray their Democratic opponents as soft on crime.
Opponents argue the law was passed without proper vetting, and will allow people accused of violent crimes to be released, causing a danger to the community. Proponents have said the legislation would help prevent wealth from being a factor in whether someone charged with a violent crime must stay in jail while awaiting trial. They also maintain it will help reduce the number of people held in jail awaiting a potential verdict by limiting the criteria a judge can use to order incarceration.
DeVore rose to notoriety statewide for fighting against masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeVore said he believes cash bail elimination was purposefully scheduled to go into effect in 2023 after the midterm election to prevent impacts in the Illinois gubernatorial race. Legislators have said, however, the Jan. 1 deadline was set to give courts across the state the chance to prepare for expected changes.
“I’m here to tell you, and I don’t give my opinion about things much, but in my opinion that was not a coincidence,” DeVore said of the Jan. 1 implementation. “You can choose whether you think it was or not.”
Earlier this month, DeKalb County followed other prosecutors across the state in filing a lawsuit seeking to block part of the SAFE-T Act that would eliminate cash bail for certain defendants awaiting trial.
DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato and Sheriff Andy Sullivan, both Republicans, filed the lawsuit against Gov. JB Pritzker and Attorney General Kwame Raoul over the SAFE-T Act Oct. 5, according to court records. They argue that the SAFE-T Act, is unconstitutional, and it would be “chaotic” for residents if it takes effect as scheduled Jan. 1.
DeVore said suspects charged with second-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, burglary or arson will no longer be held in custody until trial once cash bail is abolished across the state on Jan. 1. The Associated Press, however, has reported that’s a false characterization of what the law will do.
Judges in Illinois will still maintain discretion to order those suspected of those or other serious crimes held in jail pending trial if they’re deemed a threat to public safety or a flight risk. But the new law does impose higher standards to meet those conditions that critics say will make it harder to detain people.
Beth Marie Evans, of South Grove Township, was among 22 people who attended DeVore’s event. A Republican precinct committee woman for South Grove Township, Evans said she also plans to run for Sycamore School District 427′s school board in the spring.
Evans also said she’s concerned by recent gun violence on DeKalb’s north side, especially as it pertains to DeKalb County youth.
“That’s why I’m getting involved in politics and even getting involved in the school board because I also know what they kids are being taught in school,” Evans said. “I just see a lot of damage being done to society. And I believe that the SAFE-T Act is going to only make things worse for our communities, make them unsafe, and probably get a lot of people killed.”
Others in attendance held similar view points. One couple said in spite of the mask mandate they never enforced masks at a business they own, even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DeVore, who’s attempting to hold information sessions focused on the SAFE-T Act in communities throughout northern Illinois, said the concerns of those he met with in Sycamore are “almost exactly identical” to the worries he hears other Illinoisans share with him.
“And they really want to understand how something like that [the SAFE-T Act] would become law,” DeVore said. “And when there’s really no easy answer for them that’s what I tell them, ‘You have to go ask your general assembly, your senator, your house member but what you heard here in the room is pretty common across the state.”
Chris and Shannon Mitchell, owners of MVP Sports Bar in Sycamore, said they hosted DeVore’s weekend event because they think it’s important for the community to have an opportunity to meet with candidates from all political parties and be a part of the political process.
“Today was an opportunity to get an opinion out there, hear about it and engage the public,” Chris Mitchell said. “And anytime that I as a business owner can open my doors to people to engage in that I’m going to.”
Chris Mitchell said the SAFE-T Act is something that concerns him but didn’t think he’d heard enough about it prior to Saturday’s information session.
“It was nice to hear Mr. DeVore’s side of his view of the SAFE-T Act and what he feels is right or wrong about it,” Mitchell said. “And when I go to the polls on Nov. 8, you know, I’m going to now be informed about what his side, what that political party and what he represents as far as what he wants to do for that.”
The Associated Press and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.