DeKalb County State's Attorney: Amato Challenges Schmack

Oct 28, 2016

DeKalb County voters will choose their top prosecutor November 8th. State’s Attorney Richard Schmack is being challenged by Republican Rick Amato.

Republican Rick Amato and Democrat Richard Schmack answer questions at a candidate forum in Genoa.
Credit Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The rivals laid out their plans for the next four years during the state’s attorney’s forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of DeKalb County Thursday night. Democrat Richard Schmack says he’d like to build on his work with local organizations and other areas of the criminal justice system, “working with judiciary on bail reform, and on opening up the mental health court, opening up swift certain and fair probation to try and bring quick sanctions to people on probation who violate.”

Republican Rick Amato says his goals are to focus on the most serious crimes, speed up prosecution of cases, team up with law enforcement, and above all, serve the victims of violent crime He says “They will be incorporated into everything we do. They will be treated as a client. They’ll be consulted, they’ll be worked with, they’ll be brought in, and part of the process is what they are expecting,  what the process will resolve, get their input, and be part of the process from day one.”

Amato said he wants to focus on prosecuting the most serious crimes to the fullest extent, which he doesn’t feel is being done now.

“The majority of our cases, almost half of the felony cases are being pled down to lesser charges, given misdemeanors, or dismissed.”

But Schmack defended plea bargains, saying they are usually for lesser crimes.

“The majority of our class X felonies are drug charges related to the sale of a certain amount of drugs within a thousand feet of a church, school, or park.”

Both candidates stressed the importance of a new mental health court for the county’s future. They also agreed that when it comes to marijuana possession, it’s still a state’s attorney’s job to follow the law and prosecute. Although Schmack said he sees Illinois heading in the direction of marijuana legalization, and he thinks that’s “something we can all live with.” Amato was more cautious, saying there’s been an uptick of people driving under the influence of cannabis and he just wants to “do what’s best for the community.”

There was no mention during the forum of the case that will be the deciding factor for some voters. Earlier this year, Schmack’s court-ordered review led to a judge vacating the conviction of Jack McCullough of Seattle for the 1957 murder of seven-year-old Maria Ridulph of Sycamore.