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Patrick W. ‘Pat’ O’Brien, Cook County State’s Attorney Republican nominee profile

He is a former assistant Cook County state’s attorney and Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Patrick W. ‘Pat’ O’Brien, Cook County State’s Attorney Republican nominee, 2020 election candidate questionnaire
Patrick W. ‘Pat’ O’Brien, Cook County State’s Attorney Republican nominee.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Patrick W. “Pat” O’Brien

Running for: Cook County State’s Attorney

Political party affiliation: Republican

Political/civic background: 1975 -81 Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney

Assignments: Criminal Appeals, Misdemeanors, Felony Review,

Preliminary Hearings, Felony Trial Division

1981-86 Assistant Illinois Attorney General

Assignment: Assist State’s Attorneys in outlying counties in criminal cases

1986 – 93 Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney

Assignments: Deputy Supervisor Felony Review, Trial Supervisor,

Chief of General Criminal Bureau, Chief Deputy of all Criminal Prosecutions

1993 – 2006 Private Practice

1998 – 2000 Attorney for Chicago Police Board

2006 – 2015 Cook County Circuit Court Judge

Assignments: Traffic Court, Misdemeanor Courts, Municipal Civic Court, Municipal Collections Court.

2015 – Present Private Practice

Occupation: Attorney

Education: 1968-72 University of Notre Dame – Bachelor of Arts with honors

1972-75 University of DePaul School of Law – Juris Doctor

Campaign website:

Facebook: @PatOBrienForCook

Twitter: @OBrienforSA

Instagram: @OBrienforSA

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Cook County State’s Attorney a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues. Patrick W. “Pat” O’Brien submitted the following responses:

How should the street violence of the summer of 2020 reshape the state’s attorney’s office approach to crime?

The summer of 2020 has brought significant challenges to the Cook County State’s Attorney as Chief Law Enforcement Officer. The City saw a dramatic increase in the number of shootings and homicides in the first half of this year. (Approximately 40% according to the AP and Chicago Tribune) The majority of that violence occurred in gang related circumstances. There were lawful protests of perceived societal ills which happened alongside the criminal destruction of property and looting. The protests required the protection of First Amendment Rights while the destruction of property and looting demanded criminal prosecution.

Addressing both violent crime, and the destruction of property and looting, I would enact the following policies and programs for each.


I would form a new Rackets Unit to replace and expand the existing Gangs Unit. Thirty prosecutors with experience in gang, gun, and drug prosecutions would coordinate with the gang officers in the City and suburbs with a mission to investigate specific gangs as criminal enterprises. Using a special grand jury or juries, they would gather evidence to charge offenders, and prosecute those cases vertically to disposition. Gang leadership would be targeted through the use of the existing State ‘RICO’ law which permits the charging of gang directed violence ordered by the leadership.

Due to the victim and witness intimidation by gangs, I would establish a comprehensive Witness and Children Security Program modeled on the U.S. Marshall’s Witness Security Program to provide assistance in relocation, housing , job placement, counselling, and school placement. This would provide a safe environment to encourage and protect witnesses who come forward. Funding would be requested from local government sources, and federal grants.

After charges are placed on defendants, I would institute a policy that recommends appropriate cash bonds based upon the circumstances of the crime and whether the defendant presents a safety or flight risk. Under circumstances in which defendants charged with violent crime are out on bail, I would request that they have global positioning trackers, and monitor any violations which would be reported to the judge. To reduce the time from charging to trial, I would advocate that Repeat Offender Courts (ROC) be re-established which would have a smaller number of cases on the calls.

As a corollary to prosecuting violent crime, I would partner with community groups and violence interruptor groups to provide alternatives to street gangs and encourage resolution of disputes with dialogue not gunfire.


I would reorganize and enlarge the staff the Public Corruption Unit into an Official Misconduct Unit, which addresses training of police in the appropriate and lawful interaction with the public generally, and lawful protestors specifically. This discrete Unit would investigate and prosecute police officers who engage in excessive force and other forms of misconduct.

It is necessary to set expectations. I would announce at the beginning of my term, and again when protests are anticipated, that all lawful activity will be protected, however any unlawful activity such as destruction of property and looting will be strictly prosecuted.

My policy for persons arrested during rioting, would be to recommend no bail for felony arrests for looting, mob action, battery to police with a short court date such as 2 or 3 days, to allow time for government officials to restore order. I would not recommend the release of rioters into an ongoing situation.

My policy would be to have regular contact and communication with those individuals and groups promoting change, and advocating to address problems to see where the State’s Attorney’s Office may partner.

Please address the criticism of the office by police Supt. David Brown, who has said there are “zero consequences” for those who are arrested on certain gun charges. He says this has allowed the people behind gang gun violence to get back on the streets and commit more crime.

First, I agree with Superintendent Brown that some gun arrests result in “zero consequences”. State’s Attorney Foxx has rejected more felony gun charges, and dismissed more felony gun cases than the prior State’s Attorney. For those arrestees and defendants, there have been “zero consequences”. Additionally, State’s Attorney Foxx has lost more gun case trials than she has won in each of her years in office. For those defendants, there has been “zero consequences”.

There have been minimal consequences for those defendants who have been charged with possession of a gun by a felon and aggravated possession of a gun which under the law have mandatory prison sentences. For those defendants, her prosecutors have been silent when defendants are placed on electronic monitoring, a program that is poorly supervised, and counts as custodial time against the mandatory prison sentence. A defendant can plead guilty to those gun charges to the minimum prison sentence, having spent six months, or one year on electronic monitoring depending on the charge, and never set foot in the Illinois Department of Corrections. For those defendants, I submit that they suffered minimal consequences.

Second, I agree that gang defendants arrested on gun charges which are rejected, or dismissed are back on the street. I agree that defendants placed on electronic monitoring are in the community and only loosely monitored while they are awaiting trial. Those arrestees and defendants have the opportunity to commit more crimes. There are conflicting statistics on the number of gang defendants with pending cases who are re-arrested for new crimes. The Chief Judge and State’s Attorney Foxx place the recidivism rate at below 2%. There studies have been criticized in their methodology. I have seen other studies which indicate the rate of recidivism is about 12%. I believe that the Chief Judge and State’s Attorney Foxx studies are flawed. Further, I believe that the studies indicating that the recidivism rate is 12% are probably too low because it cannot measure the number of defendants who commit crime while released where no one is arrested.

Therefore, I agree with Superintendent Brown that a percentage of gang and/or gun arrestees and defendants commit additional crimes after being arrested on gun offenses. The number is probably greater than 12%. This number is unacceptable.

Patrick W. “Pat” O’Brien submitted the following responses before the March primary:

On January 29, 2019, the actor Jussie Smollett reported to the Chicago Police that he had been attacked by two white men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck. None of this proved to be true. What did the Cook County state’s attorney’s office do right or wrong in this case? What would you have done differently?

In handling the Jussie Smollett matter, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her subordinates made the following mistakes:

1) At the request of a politically connected person, Ms. Foxx attempted to intervene in the Smollett investigation by asking Superintendent Johnson to transfer the matter to the FBI;

2) Ms. Foxx mistakenly believed that the concocted story told by Smollett was truthful and that Smollett was a victim;

3) Ms. Foxx declared that she was recusing herself from overseeing the Smollett case alleging a conflict of interest and assigning her First Assistant as the ultimate decision-maker. She failed to grasp that her recusal applied to the Office as a whole and that a procedure for selection of a Special State’s Attorney controlled as set out in 55 ILCS 5/3-9008;

4) Her Office overcharged Smollett by bringing a sixteen (16) count grand jury Indictment where a two (2) count indictment for lying to two different Chicago Police Officers at separate times would have sufficed;

5) Her Office filed a Motion to Advance the case instanter with the apparent intention of keeping the proceeding from public view;

6) Her Office dismissed the case as if it was a deferred prosecution while ignoring the requirements of the deferred prosecution statute, and finally

7) Ms. Foxx gave multiple conflicting and unsatisfactory reasons for the actions she took.

I would have handled the matter as follows:

1) First, assign an experienced trial attorney to vertically handle the investigation and subsequent case updating his supervisors on the matter:

2) When the investigation concluded, subpoena Smollett to testify before the grand jury. If Smollett testified under oath consistent with his statements to police, then request a three-count indictment with one count for perjury and two counts for making false police reports. If Smollett declined to testify before the grand jury, then request a two-count Indictment for making false police reports;

3) After Smollett’s arrest, keep the case on its scheduled public court dates, and speedily tender discovery to defendant’s attorneys:

4) If the Defendant’s attorneys initiate a discussion about a disposition, then keep the Chicago Police Department informed of the discussions, and solicit their input. If the discussion regarding a disposition is not satisfactory, then proceed to trial.

5) If there is no initiation by Defendant’s attorneys about a disposition, then proceed to trial.

When is it appropriate to recruit the FBI and United States attorney’s office for assistance in cases that usually fall under state jurisdiction?

Generally, the State’s Attorney should consider contacting the federal government for assistance where their investigative power is more extensive and/or their sentencing minimums higher. The following situations are appropriate:

1) Possession of a gun by a felon with prior convictions where the federal code provides for greater sentences; (Note: there should be a number of Assistants cross-designated as Assistant United States Attorneys to co-prosecute these and other referred cases.) and;

2) Political corruption cases where the successful conclusion of the investigation requires an eavesdropping recording not permitted by State statute.

Federal investigators are conducting a wide-ranging probe of Chicago area officeholders, including aldermen and state legislators. Why do you think these cases were not investigated and prosecuted by the state’s attorney?

Kim Foxx is failing to investigate and prosecute political corruption in her jurisdiction because she is a part of the problem, and any persons with information would hesitate to come forward for fear of disclosure of their identity to the target, and reprisal. I would point to the following facts:

A) Her political supporters and donors are some of the very persons being investigated and in some cases charged: Ed Burke - $5000 (09/02/2016); Friends of Martin Sandoval - $5000 (02/16/2016); Nikki Zollar (CEO of Safespeed) - total $9000 (10/15/2015, 02/26/2016, and 04/15/2016)

B) Toni Preckwinkle is Chairman of the Democratic Party to which the person charged or investigated belong. Ms. Preckwinkle donated over $350,000 in cash and services to secure Ms. Foxx’s election. In turn, Ed Burke, Martin Sandoval, Luis Arroyo, Jeff Tobolski, and Anne Praggiore, among others, have donated to Ms. Preckwinkle.

C) Ms. Foxx has not made investigating public corruption a priority in her administration. She has assigned fewer Assistants to the Public Corruption Unit then in past Administrations, and done little to promote its existence.

What should the office’s priorities be?

The State’s Attorney Office should have the following priorities:

1) The Office should prioritize violent crime which focuses on gangs, guns, and drugs. The following steps should take place: create a Rackets Unit combining Assistants with those specialties, impanel a second grand jury which is devoted to investigating and building those cases, employ the existing RICO statute to attack gang management, set aside resources to protect, and if necessary relocate witnesses, and vertically and swiftly prosecute those cases.

2) The Office should prioritize investigating and prosecuting public corruption. The following actions are necessary: reorganize and enlarge the Public Corruption Unit under new leadership in a location which is accessible, but discrete. Publicize a phone number to solicit information regarding alleged wrongdoing. Utilize the grand jury to build cases.

3) The Office needs to speed up the disposition of all cases. First, require that all murder, sexual assault, and gun cases are tried within 18 months of charging, and all other cases proceed to disposition within two years.

4) Establish a Unit within Felony Review which monitors defendants on bond and/or electronic monitoring to ensure that they are in compliance with the conditions of their bonds until their cases are disposed of. Where there are violations immediately bring those defendants to court.

5) Dedicate a Unit of Assistants, initially ten, to educate and reconnect with Law Enforcement and the Community. This would require sending Assistants to police roll calls to update and answer questions about the Office and the evolving state of citizen interactions, and going to schools, both grade, and high schools, and public forums, to speak about the Office and listen to concerns.

How would you describe the relationship between the state’s attorney’s office, the Fraternal Order of Police and suburban police departments? What should the office do, if anything, to improve these relationships?

Your question implies what the FOP and suburban police chiefs have publicly stated. Both have expressed their dissatisfaction with Kim Foxx. I would agree that the relationship between Ms. Foxx and Chicago and suburban police departments is fractured. It can and must be repaired. I would do the following:

1) In the first month, I would personally visit the Superintendent and the leadership of the FOP and the North, West, and South Suburban Chiefs Organizations. I would additionally visit federal, State, and Cook County Sheriffs commands. I would clearly articulate my position that no one is above the law and that violators of the law will be prosecuted.

2) I would reorganize Felony Review to have suburban Assistants handle their districts and City Assistants respond to Chicago matters to shorten response time and promote familiarity with police personnel.

3) I would approve criminal charges on offenders where the accountability theory applies. I would approve charges on financial crimes, including retail theft, as the legislature has set out in the statutes.

Bail reform in Cook County has been praised for reducing the number of people held in jail while awaiting trial, but it has been criticized for making the public less safe. Do you support these changes? Why or why not? What steps should be taken next?

The Illinois Legislature has enacted the new Bail Statute. As State’s Attorney, it would be my duty to comply with its provisions. The Chief Law Enforcement Officer has to follow the law. What Kim Foxx has failed to understand and recognize are the consequences of the changes made by the new Bail Statute, and her obligation to respond to those changes.

The new Bail Statute has placed thousands of defendants on I-bonds and electronic monitoring with inadequate supervision to ensure compliance with the conditions of their release. Further, by increasing the number of defendants placed on bond, she has increased the number of defendants who have little incentive to resolve their cases where the evidence of guilt is great which increases the time on bond.

I would take the following steps to address the consequences of the new Bail Statute:

1) Establish a Unit within Felony Review which monitors defendants on bond and electronic monitoring to timely notify the Court of violations, and increase conditions of bond or revoke bond where appropriate;

2) Require that trial assistants compile a list of murder, sexual assault, and gun cases within their courtrooms which are older than 18 months, and mandate that those cases be disposed of as a priority. Update the list of those cases every week. Require the trial supervisors to try the oldest cases themselves. The objective is to bring violent crimes to disposition no later than two years with a goal of reducing that time to 18 months or less.

What professional experience would you bring to the job of state’s attorney that would best qualify you to handle the office’s wide variety of criminal and civil cases?

My professional experience is broad and deep. I have experience as a prosecutor and a defense attorney in Cook and other counties and have served as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge.

I was a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney on two different occasions totaling thirteen (13) years which included assignments in Appeals, Misdemeanor Courts, Felony Review, Preliminary Hearing, and Felony Trial Courts. On my return to the Office, I was appointed to supervisory positions as Deputy Supervisor in Felony Review, Trial Supervisor at 26th Street, Chief of the Criminal Bureau, and finally as Chief Deputy. Between stints in the Office, I spent five (5) years as an Assistant Illinois Attorney General trying criminal cases in outlying counties.

I was in private practice for thirteen (13) years handling primarily criminal cases both in state courts and federal court. I served as attorney to the Police Board for two years.

I was elected Judge in 2006 and served until 2015 when I stepped down from the bench. I had assignments in both criminal and civil courtrooms including Traffic, Misdemeanor, Preliminary Hearing, Municipal Court, and Collections.

Each candidate for state’s attorney has notable political supporters and donors. What would you do to assure that they do not have undue influence in your office?

I was not recruited by any political figure or donor to run for State’s Attorney. I am not seeking to use the State’s Attorney Office as a stepping stone to any other office. The majority of the money raised has come from my self, family, and friends. I am running because of my love for this Office, and seek to restore its reputation not tarnish it.

What would you do to shorten the delay between charge and trial for defendants in Cook County Jail?

I ask to incorporate my responses in my Answer to the prior question regarding Bail Reform. Additionally, the delay in tendering discovery in the most serious cases is due to the months and year-long delays, in matters where defendants have been videotaped at police stations and/or where DNA testing is needed for evidence. It is paramount that the Office devote more personnel to making videotapes of custody interrogations, and get the County, State and/or federal government to hire additional State crime lab analysts or pay for private DNA testing.

The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office collects judgments that return to taxpayers three times more money than the budget of the office. The Cook County state’s attorney’s civil division recovers far less money. Why is that? What would you do about it?

According to the last available yearly figures in 2017 for the U.S. Attorney, the amount of money collected totaled appropriately $75 million. The break down was as follows: $29.7 million in criminal actions, $28.7 million in civil actions, and $16.07 million in asset forfeiture actions.

The phrasing of your question requires me to defend this State’s Attorney Office which I will not do. However, even if the State’s Attorney Office were to perform at a higher level of efficiency, the greater geographic territory, investigative resources, and case selectivity of the Northern District of the U.S. Attorney’s Office would still result in it recovering more revenue.

However, the State’s Attorney could increase the monies collected for Cook County in the following areas:

1) Focusing more on asset forfeiture cases which had in the past averaged about 10 millions collected yearly; and

2) Filing and collecting on liens for medical treatment given to Plaintiffs who obtained settlements and/or judgments in personal injury cases where the Plaintiff was treated at Cook County Hospital and monies were owed for that treatment.

What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

I take inspiration from Ben Adamowski who was elected Cook County State’s Attorney as a Republican, and served from 1956 through 1960.

I find his political situation and challenges have similarities to my own. Mr. Adamowski was elected as a democrat to the State legislature. Subsequently, he switched parties, and ran as a Republican for State’s Attorney in heavily democratic Cook County and won. During his term in office, he exposed and prosecuted political corruption including Chicago police officers who burglarized homes in the Summerdale Scandal. He ran an apolitical office which benefited the citizens, and not him personally. I hope to accomplish the same.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

If I had to choose one favorite TV show it would be M*A*S*H

It resonated with me because the characters in the show were able to find a way to thrive and find humor in a violent and chaotic setting. Though the historical setting for show was a field hospital during the Korean War, the conflicts and challenges of the characters mirrored the 1970’s when I was first in the State’s Attorney Office. Despite disagreements and personality differences amongst characters, they were able to work together and become a surrogate family, and do good for others.

The show gave me hope for our own situation then and now.