by Dale Chappell
A former Illinois state attorney was indicted by a grand jury September 5, 2017, on 17 counts of misconduct and misappropriation of public funds in connection with a special police force he created.
Brian Towne created the State's Attorney's Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Unit in 2011 when he was a State's Attorney. This special police unit was comprised of retired law enforcement officers who Towne authorized to stop and search "suspicious" vehicles for drugs. If drugs were found, police confiscated the vehicle and its contents. SAFE brought in mire than $1 million between 2011 aid 2016, seizing the property of at least 77 motorists along Interstate 80.
The charges allege that Towne used funds from SAFE for personal expenses, such as a $21,000 sport-utility vehicle, $3,000 on a wireless system for his house, and travel expenses for conferences that included a $17,000 per day expense allowance. The charges also allege that he illegally took payments from the State for classes he had taught.
In June 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Towne had overstepped his authority as a prosecutor by creating SAFE and that it was not a valid police agency. The victims of SAFE have since filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against LaSalle County, Towne, and several SAFE officers for violating their civil rights.
After Towne lost his run for reelection as LaSalle County State Attorney in 2016, he was appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate perjury committed by the prosecution in the 20'12 trial of Jack Daniel McCullough, a man wrongfully convicted of the kidnapping and murder of second-grader Maria Ridulph. The prosecutor in that trial had claimed in court that a video of an interrogation it had in its possession did not exist. McCullough's family, though, discovered the video through a public records request during their investigation into the prosecutor's misconduct in the case. McCullough was exonerated earlier this year, and he has filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Towne called the charges "dirty politics at its worst." McCullough's family said it is "further proof of the systemic corruption in the Illinois legal system related to prosecutors."
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