Two seek state's attorney's seat in Piatt County
Both candidates for Piatt County state's attorney are using the public record to make the claim they should be elected to the office.
Democrat David Cox is challenging one-term incumbent Dana Rhoades on next month's ballot.
For Cox, Rhoades' conviction rate on DUI's is a major issue.
"Her conviction rate for DUI's is 34 percent, giving drunk drivers court supervision or dismissing cases outright over 70 percent of the time," said Cox, 50, of Bement. The former Bement village president also feels the state's attorney has neglected filing felony charges and claims she makes less than 15 percent of the courtroom appearances for her office.
Rhoades, 42, of Monticello, counters that the record shows she had been hard on crime, including a murder conviction that resulted in a 45-year sentence, a record for the county.
"During my first term as your state's attorney, 10 child molesters were convicted and sentenced to a total of 145 years in prison, 12 burglars/thieves were convicted and sentenced to a total of 58 years in prison, and seven drug dealers were convicted and sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison."
Rhoades also said she wants to continue to build on the relationships she has forged with law enforcement and other Piatt County agencies in her first term.
"The biggest issue ... is which candidate holds the right characteristics that will best serve the citizens of Piatt County," Rhoades said. "Law enforcement has endorsed my candidacy due to my aggressive and fair prosecution of crime in Piatt County." Among those endorsing her candidacy have been Piatt County Sheriff David Hunt and Monticello Police Chief Michael Galloway.
But Cox feels there is a need to take more cases to trial. If elected, he promised "the public will see a state's attorney that takes cases to trial. Currently, experienced defense lawyers know that she will not and cannot effectively try criminal cases in court. Until the state's attorney's office is prepared to do so, the outcomes of criminal cases through negotiated pleas will not be as effective."
Cox also said he would "stand up for people's property and citizens rights," and would not "rubber stamp illegal or ill-advised use of the taxpayer money to the county board but will rather give candid and decisive advice to enable and require the board to act in a lawful manner."
Rhoades said her record of prosecution has also financially benefited the county.
"Piatt County collected approximately $2 million in revenue as a direct result of criminal prosecutions during the past four years," said Rhoades, adding that forfeiture laws enabled the county to net $55,000 off of property seized from convicted felons in 2011 alone.
The candidates do agree that work needs to be done in the area of youth crime prevention. Cox points to his 500 hours of youth work as a soccer coach, Scout leader and Bement mayor and promises to use that experience to "develop stronger relationships with the schools and youth to work on preventative programs."
Rhoades has teamed up with Piatt County agencies and professionals to "develop a juvenile justice board in Piatt County with an eye toward bringing better services and programs to help these kids (juvenile offenders)." She has also volunteered at Neighbor House, Piatt County's first domestic violence shelter.
Political experience: Bement village president, 1997-2001.
On the issues: Critical of incumbent's record on DUI convictions; vows to take more cases to trial; wants to develop stronger relationships with county schools and youth to work on preventative programs; points out that if he is elected, there is no conflict of interest with new judge Judge Finson, who is the uncle of the incumbent.
Occupation: Piatt County state's attorney.
Political experience: Piatt County's chief prosecutor since 2008.
On the issues: Under her tenure a 45-year prison term was issued after a murder conviction, the longest in county history; developed a juvenile justice board to help in youth crime prevention; effective use of state forfeiture laws has resulted in $55,000 in proceeds for the county in 2011 alone; 10 child molesters convicted and sentenced to a total of 145 years in prison.