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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our View: A question of judgment

Normally we don't give much credence to allegations hurled by candidates at their opponents during a political campaign. That said, the accusations from Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons that challenger Darin LaHood acted improperly and perhaps unethically by injecting himself into an ongoing rape investigation and pending trial do give us pause.

Let us first lay out the dueling versions of what transpired.

Lyons charges that LaHood showed up "unannounced and uninvited" last week at the South Side home of a teen sexual assault victim. There he talked with the girl's mother, indicated he had "read all the police reports in this case," made some disparaging remarks about how it had been handled, and left his business card, Lyons says. He claims LaHood initially misrepresented himself to the family as "the new prosecutor of the case."

Lyons called LaHood's involvement "an offensive invasion into the private life of a rape victim" and an example of a candidate who "will say and do anything to win an election."

LaHood acknowledges that he went to the home twice, but disputes Lyons' allegations beyond that as "fallacious" or "hyperbole." He insists his visit and behavior are not the issue here but an alleged rapist - Monterius Hinkle - becoming an alleged serial rapist because the incumbent state's attorney didn't prosecute him following previous arrests. Lyons' allegations are a politically motivated attempt to deflect attention from that "bottom line," said LaHood.

He believes he has an obligation, in preparation for this office, "to ascertain how families who have been victimized by unspeakable crimes feel about their treatment in our criminal justice system," and to get that information firsthand. He says he had no intention of talking to the victim, only to a father "outraged" by what happened to his daughter. He maintains that he had no intention of using what he learned for political purposes. "I make no apologies," LaHood said. "I would do it again ... absolutely." [Mark Godsey]

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