EDITORIAL - What was LaHood thinking?
Darin LaHood, in his quest to be swept in as the next Peoria County State's Attorney, is receiving a lot of attention lately.
The attention, while not welcome for LaHood, is well-deserved.
Last week, LaHood stood accused by his political opponent Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons of interfering in a rape case involving a minor.
Lyons' charges strike us as fair given the information before us now.
But, everyone needs to remember that LaHood, like the alleged rapist at the heart of this
controversy, is innocent until proven guilty.
And, if guilty, what is LaHood guilty of?
Is he guilty of being an over-zealous candidate? Probably.
Perhaps he is guilty of interfering with an active rape investigation. That would be very serious, but so far, it is unproven.
It seems clear to us at the very least LaHood is guilty of questionable judgment.
It is not in dispute that LaHood went to the victim's house and spoke to her mother, and returned a second time to talk to the girl's father.
It was at this second meeting that LaHood was confronted at his car by investigators for Lyons and sped off.
Lyons, at a press conference, called LaHood’s actions 'improper" and "outrageous."
Whether his actions, from a legal standpoint, crossed the line is a question for legal ethicists to decide.
LaHood has every right to question how Lyons is handling the case of Monterius Hinkle, accused of multiple sexual assaults.
As a candidate, he should raise questions, and we support his effort to get answers.
This case is full of questions.
However, LaHood's decision to visit the victim's home is suspect.
The issue is how LaHood went about seeking answers.
"Five children between the ages of 13 and 16 were allegedly raped by a convicted felon out on parole over the course of 13 months leading up to January of this year," LaHood said in a statement.
"Monterius Hinkle was arrested at least three times by law enforcement, and was never charged for any rape by the State's Attorney Office until the fifth rape. He should have been charged the first time. Instead, Hinkle left five rape victims and their devastated families. Concerned citizens of this community want answers as to why Hinkle was walking the streets of Peoria after four alleged rapes."
That criticism from LaHood is fair if it is backed up by something.
But, "Where's the beef?"
His statement sounds like an effort to divert attention from his actions, an excuse for going too far.
It certainly allows those who are not in his corner the opportunity to ask LaHood how he would feel if the shoe was on the other foot and his opponent was trying to make end runs around his legal efforts.
We can hazard a reasonable guess that LaHood would not be pleased.
LaHood says, "Kevin Lyons has reduced the criminal justice system — particularly in this case — to political expediency; he has made false accusations against me, and he is ultimately responsible that Hinkle was free, on the streets of Peoria, to allegedly commit these multiple rapes."
This statement is disingenuous on its face.
LaHood is certainly trying to make political hay out of this, and he stepped in a big pile with his eyes wide open.
The stink from this will linger, as it should.