Brown: GOP state’s attorney hopeful blows smoke to make sparks

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Christopher E.K. Pfannkuche, Republican Cook County State’s Attorney candidate. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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I’m guessing most of you have never heard of Christopher Pfannkuche, the Republican candidate for Cook County state’s attorney, but he came up with a strategy Tuesday to help change that.

Pfannkuche pledged that if he’s elected he will conduct a criminal investigation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel over his handling of the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Pfannkuche told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.

If you happen to see our video of the meeting with Pfannkuche and Democrat Kim Foxx, you might pick up the sound of my jaw hitting the table at that particular remark.

Until then, Pfannkuche had come across as your very responsible, run-of-the-mill career prosecutor, as his resume reflects.


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Then he launched without prompting into an eye-opening discussion of how we need a grand jury to investigate what has always struck me as more of a political question, casting serious doubt on Pfannkuche’s judgment.

“The critics have been saying that Rahm Emanuel held that video back because he was going through a process of re-election. As prosecutor, I’m going to take a very close look at that,” Pfannkuche volunteered.

“If Rahm Emanuel did anything to withhold that video because he was undergoing an election process where he had a very good chance of possibly not being re-elected, if there was any chance that he communicated in any way, shape or fashion to any other individual to withhold that video until after his election was completed, then the moment I am elected state’s attorney I’m going to launch an investigation.”

“I’m going to impanel a grand jury. I’m going to subpoena every text message. I’m going to subpoena every email. I’m going to subpoena every bit of communication. I’m going to put witnesses in front of a grand jury. I’m not going to drop this ball. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

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“…If it’s Rahm Emanuel himself that did something on this, I will investigate him, I will indict him, and if the evidence shows he did anything to withhold this, I will put him in jail cell next to his friend Rod Blagojevich.”

The gratuitous reference to Blagojevich was the clincher that Pfannkuche has no business in this job.

I realize that a lot of the people agree with the “critics” who believe Emanuel intentionally refused to release the video to the public until he got past his re-election.

While I’m personally doubtful of that theory, I recognize it as a legitimate line of inquiry, which many reporters have aggressively pursued without finding much smoke let alone any fire.

But it’s totally irresponsible for the person who wants to be the county’s top prosecutor to publicly announce he’s going to open any investigation based on speculation.

Although he couldn’t cite any evidence to support his plans for a grand jury, Pfannkuche was ready with possible charges: official misconduct, honest services fraud and obstruction of justice.

Keep in mind the city never withheld the video from investigators, including the state’s attorney, who had it all along.

Rather, it declined to release the video to the public, relying on a perhaps misguided policy that to do so would interfere with a pending investigation and possibly with a fair trial.

The policy has since been changed in the interest of transparency (and political reality) after a federal judge ordered the release of the video, which shows police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.

Emanuel is an unpopular figure right now, so I can see why Pfannkuche (which is prounounced fawn-cook, not fawn-kooky) would use him to garner attention, and maybe some votes.

There’s precious little chance of Pfannkuche being elected, given Cook County’s Democratic leanings, but he deserves to be treated as a serious candidate.

And a serious candidate for state’s attorney shouldn’t pander to popular conspiracy theories.

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