By Bob Balgemann
BOONE COUNTY – Tuesday’s election for the Republican nomination for Boone County State’s Attorney may determine who holds that position for the next four years.
Incumbent Michelle Courier and challenger Tricia Smith are the only two candidates. There is no Democrat on the ballot, though the Democratic Party still may slate someone after the election. Independents will have an opportunity to file well in advance of the Nov. 1 general election.
Candidates’ backgrounds
Incumbent Courier began practicing law 17 years ago and, prior to being elected Boone County State’s Attorney seven years ago, she served for four years in the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, as assistant state’s attorney. She also is a former Boone County Board member, chairing the public safety committee, and is involved in the community through memberships in Prairie Grange, Rotary Club, Sister Cities, Zonta, Boone County Historical Society and St. James Church.
She also has led organizations designed to keep the community safer, such as the Gang Task Force and Drug Prevention Coalition.
In addition, she has received the Violence Preventioin Collaborative Partner in Peace award and spoke at the Midwest Gang Conference, attended by prosecutors and law enforcement officials.
A native of Boone County, she has experience in all aspects of the State’s Attorney’s Office including criminal, civil and governmental law.
Candidate Smith is a former county board member, serving from 2010-2012. She resigned when her law firm, of which she is an employee, not a partner, received a contract with the 17th Judicial Circuit. There were differing opinions at the time as to whether that created a conflict of interest.
“To avoid an appearance of impropriety, I resigned,” she said in a statement. She contrasted that with Courier working on the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office while she was a county board member.
For the past 18 years, she has been a member of the Boone County Bar Association, as a board member and president; Cosmopolitan Club of Boone County, as a board member and president; and the Zonta Club of Belvidere, serving on the board. She also is secretary for the Winnebago County Police Museum.
Why they’re running
Incumbent Courier is seeking re-election because she wants the county to remain a safe place to live.
“I do not want to go backwards to what it was before I took office seven years ago,” she said. “For the last seven years, crime and gang-related crime has continued to drop. Now, calls for service and gang-related crime have been reported to be the lowest in the last 10 years.”
She said Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble credits three reasons for those reductions: (1) getting local neighborhoods involved; (2) proactive policing, concentrating on narcotics and gangs; and (3) her office in its directed prosecution against narcotics and gangs.
“For this reason, I am proud to have the backing and endorsement of the longest-serving chief in the state of Illinois, Jan Noble,” she said.
Courier said she also is proud to have a lengthy list of supporters “because of the work I have done.”
Included on that list are four sitting state’s attorneys, Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Belvidere City Council members, county board members, the current county clerk, the current treasurer and township leaders from Manchester and Flora.
“I also have a number of Belvidere leaders supporting me including Pastor Bob Kopp, VFW Commander Greg Kelm, former Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton, and Ruth Todt, the longest-serving CASA volunteer in Boone County,” she said.
Candidate Smith said she’s running for this office because she has “seen the number of trials the state’s attorney’s office has been losing since Ms. Courier took office, the high turnover in her office and the long delays it takes cases to get to trial.”
She said she was encouraged to run by many members of the Boone County Justice System because they noticed problems with the current administration as well. She said they include former Sheriff Duane Wirth, Former Boone County State’s Attorney John Maville, former head of probation, Jim Middleton, retired circuit court clerks Nora Ohlsen and Julie Klieve, retired County Clerk Pam McCullough and retired Coroner Lois Swenson.
The top issue
For Incumbent Courier the top issue facing the state’s attorney’s office is continuing the “tough on crime reputation that we have earned,” she said. “We will continue to target gangs and drugs because that is what drives crime in Boone County, and in the surrounding area. We will continue to aggressively prosecute gangs through all available measures.”
In addition, she said her office will continue “to send murderers, child predators and drug dealers to prison. We will also hold drunk drivers accountable by refusing to deal their charges away and seek prison sentences for the most serious offenders.”
Candidate Smith said the main issue is the “lack of proper charging to cases, either overcharging or undercharging, which leads to the lowest rate of convictions in felony jury trials of other state’s attorneys, including Jim Hursh, Roger Russell and John Maville.”
The conviction rate on felony trials is 63 percent, she said. The previous state’s attorneys were winning at the rate of 82 to 85 percent.
“When you add misdemeanor cases, the success rate is even lower,” she said. (She cited reports sent by the county clerk’s office to the Illinois Courts as the sources of her information).
She claimed a first-degree murder trial was lost because the current state’s attorney only charged first degree and no lesser charges, such as second degree or involuntary manslaughter. The state’s medical evidence did not support the first-degree charge, but she said the incumbent wouldn’t change her mind on the charge and the jury ultimately found the defendant not guilty.
Due to poor charging decisions, she said cases are severely backlogged. It took 1,185 days for a DUI to be resolved by trial; 785 days for felonies; and 917 days for misdemeanors.
Why select you?
Incumbent Courier said voters should return her to office because she has kept her promises and has a proven record of working to keep Boone County safe.
“My actions have matched my words and my action, together with our community of law enforcement’s actions, has kept this area safe,” she said. “Our community is safer now than when I took office seven years ago.”
Candidate Smith believes she should be elected because “I have the best qualifications between the (two) candidates.”
She listed a degree in administering criminal justice from Bradley University; 10 years civil experience at Tobin and Ramon and at the Law Offices of John Maville; handling zoning issues and other matters before the county board; and being a Rockford police officer for six years.
“I have the most experience in criminal law, which is about 90 percent of what the state’s attorney’s office is tasked to do pursuant to statute,” she said. “I have personally handled hundreds of felony cases from the grand jury process, through discovery and pre-trial motions, through bench and jury trials.”

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