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McMahon: Focusing on office, with no election foe

States Attorney press conferance about A 22-year-old Aurorman who has served decade prisan Aurorgang murder will go free.
The Kane County

States Attorney press conferance about A 22-year-old Aurora man who has served a decade in prison in an Aurora gang murder will go free. The Kane County state’s attorney Tuesday filed a petition in court seeking to vacate the 2002 murder conviction against Jonathan Moore of Aurora in a 2000 homicide. The court granted the petition. Moore was convicted in the murder of Shawn Miller, 20, of Montgomery, in a shooting in front of a coin laundry in the 0-99 block of Lincoln Avenue in August 2000. He was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder, and an additional 37 years for wounding a 17-year-old Chicago man at the scene., March 6, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 13, 2012 10:11PM

ST. CHARLES — Though he faced no primary or general election opponents, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon didn’t feel left out of all the fun last week.

“No, not really,” McMahon said with a smile Tuesday at his monthly press briefing.

While taking the drama out of election night, the lack of a challenger has given McMahon a chance to “really just focus on running this office,” he said.

McMahon was appointed as Kane’s top prosecutor in December 2010 after his predecessor, now-Judge John Barsanti, received an appointment to the bench. McMahon heads into his first full term with nearly two years of momentum behind him.

“I never felt like I needed to wait for this election,” McMahon said of improvements he’s brought to the office, as well as initiatives which attempt to quell certain types of crime before they occur.

McMahon cited the expansion of pre-trial diversion to include low-level, first-time drug offenders. Such programs give qualifying defendants an opportunity to avoid a conviction and jail time by following court-imposed rules. Also, the state’s attorney’s office has brought the anti-bullying message — specifically, the consequences of aggressive physical behavior — to children around the county, McMahon said.

In the areas of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence, McMahon said the office continues to put a focus on prevention instead of simply punishment. One of those programs, the so-called No Refusal Weekend, is a holdover from Barsanti’s time, but continues to nab suspected drunken drivers on targeted nights where offenders must submit to blood-alcohol testing. McMahon said Tuesday that four drivers, including one who registered a .290 BAC, more than three times the legal limit, were arrested on DUI charges during a No Refusal campaign just before Halloween.

McMahon also has eyes on minimizing turnover in his office, which was helped by the county’s decision to increase salaries for assistant state’s attorneys, and continued work on partnerships with local police, the chief judge’s office and community groups.

One major development he expects to happen early in his first elected term is the debut of courtroom cameras in Kane County.

“I expect to see a camera in a courtroom in this building (Kane County Judicial Center) in 2013,” McMahon said.

Despite some early reservations on the concept, McMahon feels rules on camera use, especially in the area of victim safety, will give the public a new avenue for understanding the judicial process while protecting the rights of those involved in cases. He described the rules as establishing camera use that is “minimally invasive” and respectful of the process.

McMahon’s office reported a noticeable drop off in calls to the election complaint hotline on Nov. 6. Assistant State’s Attorney Amy Engerman said 48 calls were logged on Election Day compared to 120 received during the last presidential election in 2008. This year, the majority of the calls related to voter registration questions, the Aurora Election Commission and electioneering. The callers were directed to election officials in many instances, although the 12 assistant state’s attorneys working the hotline helped resolve several issues.

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