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|Complaints Against Birkett Deserve to Be Heard|
|Commentary/Politics - Illinois Politics|
|Tuesday, 17 September 2002 18:00|
For years, Carrie Gammell has been trying to convince a disinterested press corps to cover her battle with the DuPage County powers-that-be. And for years she’s been ignored, and often called a head case.
Never mind that she can back up much of what she says with reams of documentation.
She comes off in person as someone who is just a bit too eager to exact revenge on her enemies. And she has the countenance of a pit bull who’s been in too many fights but has no intention of ever quitting.
Still, though, Gammell’s side of the story should be heard, because it appears to be a microcosm of what is wrong with the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office. And since the current DuPage state’s attorney, Joe Birkett, is now running for Illinois attorney general, these problems could conceivably continue at a much higher level.
I told you about Carrie Gammell last week. She was the woman who was married to Joe Birkett’s former campaign manager, Terry Ekl. As I told you before, Birkett’s office declared a conflict of interest rather than help Gammell increase her child support payments from Ekl.
But there are things I didn’t tell you because I didn’t find out about them until after the column ran. Dark, private things that I’d rather not have known.
Like when Ekl allegedly physically attacked her so forcefully that she had to go to the hospital. And how Ekl was never charged with a crime after a top employee of the state’s attorney’s office and a local police chief allegedly talked Gammell out of filing a formal complaint while she sat in the emergency room, covered in blood. Ekl claims to this day that he meant to throw the object at a wall, hitting her by mistake.
Then there was the letter Ekl sent to her on “Joe Birkett for State’s Attorney” campaign stationery, scolding her for disagreeing with him about weekend custody with their son. I’m sure Ekl didn’t mean to intimidate her by using the letterhead of their county’s next chief prosecutor – and one of his best friends. It was probably the only paper that was handy.
Ekl was, and still is, an extremely connected man in DuPage legal circles. If anyone I know ever gets into trouble in that county, I won’t hesitate to recommend that they retain Terry Ekl. Still, he didn’t always win his battles with his ex-wife.
For instance, she was able to successfully file an order of protection against him several weeks after the incident that sent her to the hospital.
But when she claimed he was making harassing phone calls, the state’s attorney’s office did nothing. When Ekl complained about harassing calls from her, she was arrested, hauled into court, convicted on one count, and given six months probation. There was no conflict of interest for the state’s attorney’s office that time.
She tried to move one of her cases out of DuPage, claiming that her husband was so connected she could not receive a fair trial. Her request was denied.
There’s more, but that’s enough for now. My advice to her was to get her and her son out of DuPage, but she’s too stubborn to quit, her son loves his school, and she’s convinced that Ekl cheated her out of big-time money in their divorce.
We can often judge how candidates will behave in office by looking at the type of folks they hang out with. George Ryan’s motley collection of shady friends should have set off a lot more alarm bells four years ago. Jim Ryan is preparing to slam Rod Blagojevich for some of the unsavory characters he is connected with.
So, what does it say about Joe Birkett that he would keep a guy like Terry Ekl around? Ekl is, by various accounts, one of Birkett’s closest advisers.
A few weeks ago, a woman whose husband tried to murder her complained that Birkett’s office had bullied her into agreeing to a ridiculously light jail sentence. The husband was represented by one of Birkett’s campaign contributors.
Birkett’s office claimed the woman was mistaken. But the more stories I hear, the more I’m starting to think that maybe there’s something truly wrong with the way Birkett’s shop is run.
It’s not just the good ol’ boys looking out for each other. It’s the good ol’ boys making sure the women don’t win.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter. He can be reached at (http://www.capitolfax.com).
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