Group suspects political cover-up of drug charge
A local citizens government oversight group is suggesting that former LaSalle County State's Attorney Brian Towne deliberately avoided pressing drug possession charges against Pietro Mautino, son of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino, in 2014.
The Edgar County Watchdogs say the alleged offense occurred while Towne was in office and Pietro Mautino should have been charged then. The group argues that it appears that Towne might have avoided charging Pietro Mautino because of his friendship with his auditor general dad.
In fact, Towne presented Mautino with an Outstanding Legislator Award in 2015.
A snapshot of a local news article the Watchdogs put on their lllinois Leaks website shows that the charges, now presented in LaSalle County case 17CF15, stem from the alleged possession of a small amount of the prescription painkiller hydrocodone and anti-seizure medication clonazepam.
“That leads to the question as to why no charges were brought during Brian Towne’s control of the State’s Attorney office,” wrote the Edgar County Watchdogs. “Was Towne so close to Mautino that he provided cover for his friend’s kid?”
Both Towne and Brian Mautino have faced several allegations of impropriety before.
“LaSalle County is the face of many scandals and from the results of some of the recent elections, the people are waking up,” the Watchdogs wrote, referring to Towne’s November 2016 loss of his state’s attorney seat.
In regard to Mautino, a state representative for 24 years before becoming auditor general, the Watchdogs pointed to ongoing investigations by the U.S. attorney general’s office and the Illinois State Board of Elections into his campaign spending.
Those cases began with a January report in the Illinois Times that said Mautino, despite being chosen as auditor, was still raising campaign funds, which he said were necessary for closing his office. The Edgar County Watchdogs subsequently found several irregularities, including $200,000 spent on gas and repairs at the same service station for 10 years -- which amounts to approximately $54 every day. Further, numerous amounts were invoiced in round number – a red flag to auditors – and irregularities were identified in the campaign’s payments to Spring Valley City Bank.
Towne has also faced questions over his campaign funding practices, but the larger controversy surrounding him involves the state’s attorney's former Felony Enforcement unit. Made up of special investigators, the unit focused on drug crimes and trafficking, and initially sparked controversy over the allocation of seized money. The state’s attorney received the lion’s share of the seized assets as both the county's state’s attorney and the arresting agency. Towne transferred that money to the Spring Valley Police Department, for which he had no statutory authority to do.
It was later ruled that Towne did not have the authority to create the unit and it did not have legal authority.
The scandals surrounding Towne’s last term as state’s attorney likely played a factor in his 2016 defeat and his subsequent full-time position in the appellate prosecutor’s office, where he formerly served as chairman of the board of directors.
A special prosecutor from that office has filed the charges against Pietro Mautino.
“We would like to know why now, almost three years later, charges are being brought by a special prosecutor, an office that Towne used to be the Chairman of the Board for, where he magically got a full-time job after losing his re-election attempt last November,” the Watchdogs said.