Rockford, Illinois News

State’s attorney candidate Paul Carpenter fired after donation to local photographer

ROCKFORD — Democratic candidate for Winnebago County state’s attorney Paul Carpenter has found himself out of a job after donating money to help a local man replace a camera that was damaged during his arrest last week.

Carpenter, an assistant prosecutor in the Winnebago State’s Attorney’s Office, donated $25 of his own money to help replace a camera owned by Rockford photographer Albert Riley. The camera was destroyed while Riley was being taken into custody Friday, Sept. 25 near the corner of East State and Madison streets. He’s charged with aggravated battery and resisting arrest and his case is pending.

The news of Carpenter’s ouster came after reports that he donated to a fund used to post bond for demonstrators who get arrested during City Market protests.

“I did not violate any law or any policy of the State’s Attorney’s Office,” Carpenter said in a news release. “Nevertheless, the State’s Attorney determined that this $25 personal contribution was cause to end my employment at the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office, where I have worked since 2011, zealously defending Winnebago County, its taxpayers, and its employees, including Sheriff’s Deputies, in various lawsuits.”

Carpenter likened the donation to other’s he’s made to local organizations like the Rockford Rescue Mission, United Way and the Family Peace Center. He faces Republican J. Hanley in the November election.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross, who announced last fall that she would not seek re-election, declined to get into details about the decision to let Carpenter go but said in a release she didn’t need cause.

“All employees employed by the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office are at-will employees which means that the employment relationship can be terminated by either party at any time without cause or advanced notice,” Hite Ross said. “Attorney Paul Carpenter is no longer employed by this office and it would be inappropriate to further discuss this personnel matter.”

Rockford Advocate live streamed last Friday’s protest and captured events that led up to the Riley’s arrest. The situation unfolded when a woman, three children and two men approached protesters at the corner of East State and Madison. The woman and children proceeded across the street while the men stopped and exchanged words with demonstrators before crossing and continuing along Madison Street.

After he crossed the street, the man stopped and tossed a bottle near a group of demonstrators. Another man, who prosecutors say is 19-year-old Jordan Nelson, then threw an object, reportedly a bottle, in the direction of the woman and children, the videos shows. Police then moved in and arrested Nelson.

According to witnesses, including another photographer, Riley was talking pictures on Madison Street near the parking lot behind Capri Restaurant when became involved in a physical confrontation with at least two people.  The struggle ensued after the people complained that Riley was snapping pictures of them.

“They said, ‘Don’t f–king take photos of my kids,'” a witness said. “They tried to smack his lens. Somebody tried to break his camera.”

Photos of Riley’s arrest and an online fundraiser began circulating on social media in the days after his arrest. As of this report, the fundraiser has brought in more than $2,300.

Riley was released from the Winnebago County Jail on a personal recognizance bond Monday. Nelson sustained undisclosed injuries during his arrest and was treated at a local hospital before being booked into jail. He’s currently being held without bond.

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