With Michael Hill announcing he will not seek a second term for Scott County State’s Attorney in 2020, the candidate field immediately crowded earlier in the week. Three candidates have announced they will vie for the position as Republicans next year. Rick Crews, Bethany Doolin, and John Paul Coonrod.
Coonrod, a near lifetime resident of Winchester, has a family name easily recognized for those involved in law practice in the county. John Paul Coonrod is the son of current Scott County public defender John D. Coonrod. John Paul returned to the area in 2014 after completing his law degree at Indiana University.
Coonrod explains why he’s seeking the position. “I want to serve the people that I live around. When I moved back to Scott County a few years ago with my wife, we looked around and kind of made a judgment call. Now that we’re here, we need to do our part to make sure that Winchester and the surround area is in at least as good a shape as it was when we were kids for our child growing up. That’s really kinda been a pretty big guiding principle for us and it’s kind of stuck.”
Coonrod said that he has been active in the community of Winchester upon his return to town with his family helping to found the community civic group, helping to bring a family grocery store to town, and being President of the local Kiwanis.
In his private practice, Coonrod has an extensive criminal law background as both a prosecutor and defense attorney. Coonrod says his experiences began as a special prosecutor in St. Charles County, Missouri and as a law fellow in the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office. “Basically, my experience is and I’m at the point in my career in that I’m pretty well versed in the practice of criminal law on both the prosecutor and defense side of things. There is lot to be said to have experience on both sides because it gives you a good sense of judgment. The ultimate aim is to find what justice is in each case. Some people need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s clear. Some people, for the interest of society, need to have a more nuanced approach whether that’s out-of-court diversion, or some instances of supervision with community service components; which hasn’t been utilized commonly in Scott County recently. I hope to bring that back in consultation with local officials. What experience do I bring? It’s really, to sum it up, is that I bring a view of having benefits from both sides of the coin to find what’s actually beneficial to society’s best interest in each case.”
Coonrod said that Scott County is currently lucky in that it doesn’t deal extensively with the methamphetamine trafficking scene in the region. He thinks to maintain that fortune, Scott County needs to take a certain approach towards the problem. “My stance on the issue will be pretty staunch against methamphetamine. I think, given our current position, we are in a place where we can continue to keep the bulk of that nonsense out of the county. That’s the approach I tend to take with it. I tend to be pretty stern on it.”
Coonrod intends to thoroughly cooperate with the Illinois State Police in doing administrative legwork on marijuana expungement on January 1st. However, he doesn’t really advocate for expungement because he feels that criminals should pay for their crimes but he will cooperate with the legislation on a case-by-case basis. Coonrod also said he doesn’t believe that Scott County currently has the resources to set up a Veteran’s Court. He believes that Scott County is beneficial in the means of looking at each individual’s case as it comes before the court due to the personal connections everyone has to each other in the county. He believes that his judgment as a state’s attorney will apply on a case-by-case basis, again for the benefit of everyone.
Doolin, Crews, and Coonrod will face off for the Republican nomination in the April consolidated primary before the General Election in November 2020.