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Local prosecutors support commission's idea to add powers
By Nicole Milstead | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/18/2009 12:11 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - Suburban state's attorneys say they support the added corruption-fighting powers recommended for their offices by members of the Illinois Reform Commission.

As proposed, county prosecutors would get expanded powers to obtain wiretaps to investigate bribery, extortion, fraud, official misconduct, government contracting crimes and racketeering crimes. Current law does not allow state and local prosecutors to seek judicial approval of wiretaps for most corruption-related offenses.

While prosecutors says the new powers would help their offices fight crime, at least one is concerned that the offices don't have the equipment that would be needed to use those powers.

"In Kane County, no police department has that equipment," said Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti. "If you had the equipment and manpower to do this it probably would be useful."

In addition to Kane, state's attorneys in Cook, DuPage, Lake and McHenry Counties have backed the commission proposals.

Calling them "generally... very good recommendations, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said, "I think the legislature needs to act on them. We need to reform the way government and politics act in this state."

DuPage County States Attorney Joe Birkett concurred. "Reform doesn't happen over night, good ideas will get scuttled and it won't happen unless we are vigilant," he said. "I support all the concepts of the commission."

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez served on the commission and drafted the parts of the plan that apply to states attorneys.

Waller said his office has been hamstrung by current eavesdropping and wiretap laws. "All 'overhears' we do, even when one party consents, it is very difficult to get authorization for wire taps and there still needs to be judicial oversight, but the proposal is a good change in the law," he said.

McHenry County States Attorney Lou Bianchi also indicated he backs the commission's proposals for boosting local prosecutors' power.

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow was unable to comment due to time constraints brought on by the Drew Peterson case, a spokesman said.