Donnelly defeats controversial LaSalle State's Attorney Towne in election
LaSalle County is getting a new state’s attorney.
Karen Donnelly, a Republican challenger, defeated Democratic incumbent Brian Towne by a vote of 25,899 to 21,815.
"I'm humbled, so humbled that so many voters chose my name," Donnelly told The (Ottawa) Times at the Deller Inn in Ottawa during her victory party on Election Day. "I'm going to fulfill all my promises to them. People want to see change, and I must be seen as the face of change. (Towne) has had so much negative publicity, which he brought on himself."
Towne was gracious in defeat, according to the The Times.
"You have to go back to the 1960s to find a state's attorney who was elected three times, so that streak is intact," he said. "When you do this job, you make tough decisions, and every decision invariably upsets someone, so you get less and less popular each day. I congratulate my opponent and wish her and the people of LaSalle County well."
Towne also told The Times that he spent his entire life wanting to be a prosecutor.
"It's all I ever wanted to do, since I was a sophomore in high school," he said.
Towne has served as the state’s attorney in LaSalle County since December 2006, when he took over the position after Joseph Hettel left the seat to become a judge. During the 2012 election, Towne ran unopposed. His career in the State Attorney’s office began in 1992, when he took a job as an assistant prosecutor after he received his law degree. He still lives in LaSalle.
While attending law school from 2012-14, Donnelly worked as an intern in Towne’s office. She became a lawyer after graduating in 2014, beginning her career with Mueller & Associates in Ottawa. Prior to this, she served as an office manager and paralegal for Melvin H. Hoffman Law Office in Ottawa from 1986 to 2010. She currently lives in Tonica.
During her celebration, Donnelly disparaged Towne’s scathing attitude toward her supporters and what she called his writing off of criminals. To make her point, she used Towne’s own words about Robert “Pudgy” Harris, a longtime local criminal who was imprisoned at the age of 76 last year.
"He said, 'I hope (Harris) dies in prison,'" she told The Times. "I hate that. You'll never hear that come from my mouth."
This isn’t the first time Towne has found himself the subject of controversy, as he has been followed by scandal in recent years. In September, attorney Julie Ajster filed a petition to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Towne's financial affairs.
The petition alleges that Towne was being paid to teach when he was supposed to be the county’s full-time state’s attorney and that he was collecting a per-diem from the county while he was employed by Appellate Prosecutors. This would be illegal, as any individual who works for another agency is not allowed to collect a per-diem from the county.
This isn’t the only problem Towne is facing, as Edgar County Watchdogs has been calling for Towne to face perjury charges.
Kirk Allen, a writer for the Watchdog group, published an article in October alleging Towne went after Ajster to try and drum up perjury charges against her for speaking out against him.
"The evidence and documents appear to point to a very problematic situation for Towne, a situation where he has signed and filed sworn court pleadings stating one thing, while the evidence disproves his pleadings and his statements to the courts," Allen wrote. "The appearance of perjury is so clear, we must ask, who will charge Towne? How ironic is that?"
Allen discussed the case with the Illinois Valley Times.
"We find it ironic that he has made these allegations about perjury when all the documentation we have points to him having committed perjury," Allen told the publication.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story failed to properly attribute a number of quotes. The story has since been updated to correct the error.