Quick Hits – #MeToo hits the KCSAO

Quick Hits – #MeToo hits the KCSAO

And to quote the late, great Warren Zevon, “It ain’t that pretty at all!”

But that’s going to be the last of my trademark humor here because there’s nothing funny about this. State’s Attorney Joe McMahon, Traffic and Misdemeanor head Joe Cullen, First Assistant Jody Gleason, and Chief Felony Prosecutor Bill Engerman should all be working on their resignation letters as we speak.

C’mon! It’s difficult enough being a female public defender or prosecutor without having to deal with the kind of institutionalized sexual harassment I’m about to describe. When one of my sources, who wasn’t harassed, but regularly witnessed its effects, realized I was taking it seriously, she broke down and cried.

No women should ever be subjected to this kind of treatment, and the lapses that allowed it to occur fall squarely at Joe McMahon’s feet. That’s where the buck stops, right?


Of course, I won’t be naming my sources or the victims for all the obvious reasons. Joe McMahon has a well-known propensity for retaliating against anyone who threatens his political ambitions. I won’t name the offender at this point, either, because the story really isn’t about him, and I want the results of my FOIA request (Freedom of Information) before we go there.

But with five separate sources – each of whom works, or has worked, in the Kane County Judicial Center – there’s more than enough corroboration to move ahead.

On Thursday, February 22, a top-level KCSAO prosecutor was fired after sending a text to a fellow prosecutor, explicitly outlining what he wanted “to do” to a female prosecutor. I don’t know if the recipient took the text to their bosses, or if someone separately saw it and reported it, but that’s immaterial. There may have been other mitigating circumstances in his termination, too.

But just like it is with DUIs, when the hammer finally falls, it’s not nearly the first time the harasser has harassed. So, I started digging, and it wasn’t very difficult to come up with more examples.

The first time our offender’s harassing behavior was formally reported was in or around 2015.  After being regularly stalked and harassed, a female prosecutor finally submitted a written complaint about being groped at an outside office get-together.

But McMahon and Gleason refused to take any action because, “it didn’t happen at the office.” Then in a punitive measure, they moved the offender’s office much closer to the victim, until she filed another complaint and they were forced to move him away.

Five separate sources said that victim finally left the KCSAO in 2017 because Joe McMahon and Jody Gleason refused to stop the harassment.

Jody Gleason

Fast forward to 2016, and this prosecutor stalked and harassed a public defender to the point where she asked to be moved to another courtroom. Our harasser’s response was to request a transfer to the same venue.

Despite being well aware of the previous incident, McMahon and Gleason approved the move until the Public Defender’s office intervened to prevent it.

When I raised this issue with another KCSAO employee, her immediate response was, “So, you finally caught up with him.” She assured me there were more harassment complaints, and that kind of documentation is always subject to FOIA requests.

But here’s the problem. Two separate county board members told me that Civil Division chief, Joe Lulves, regularly brags about the KCSAO being “immune” to FOIAs. He’ll simply come up with a frivolous reason to deny them, as he has with four or five of my own requests.

That means this one might require the Attorney General’s intervention, but I’ve gone that route before and I’ve won those appeals before.

As my regular readers know, I’ve been taking Joe McMahon to task for being a terrible leader, but I never thought he was a terrible person. There is a difference. So I couldn’t believe my former running partner would ever allow this kind of thing to happen, much less perpetuate it.

So, I asked my sources what went wrong, and they all provided a remarkably similar explanation:

1. KCSAO sexual harassment is condoned and covered up at the highest levels. Whenever a new woman is hired, the other female employees take her aside and explain exactly whom she needs to avoid.

2. McMahon, Gleason, Engerman and Cullen consider sexual harassment to be part of the job, and they expect their female staffers to buck up and “deal with it.”

3. It’s difficult enough for a female prosecutor to move up the KCSAO ladder and complaining about sexual harassment isn’t going to help your cause.

4. This particular harasser, a person with whom I’ve had direct experience, is extremely vindictive – I’m sure he’ll be coming after me. And I can’t tell you just how much I’m looking forward to it.

Think about it. At the height of the #MeToo movement, this individual thought he could get away with sending “that kind” of text.

So why was he fired this time? Because you’ve been reading this blog, dear reader, and the Kane County State’s Attorney knows it. He was terrified at the prospect of that text falling into my hands first. Even the worst things change when people like you pay attention.

In fact, this story is so important that, all previous feelings aside, I’ve brought it to the attention of the Daily Herald, Shaw Media and the Beacon- and Courier-News.

Meanwhile, I’m calling on:

  • Joe McMahon
  • Joe Cullen
  • Jody Gleason, and
  • Bill Engerman

to resign before the people of Kane County and the county board force them to resign. I’m including Cullen because, for reasons I’m not ready to disclose quite yet, I’m convinced he knew about it, too. If I discover that Lulves had any knowledge, his name will be added to the list.

I’ve repeatedly called McMahon, Gleason and Cullen to get their side of the story and, so far, they’ve have failed to respond.

The bottom line is, there’s much more to this, but we’ll wait for the FOIA response before we move forward. If you’ve been harassed, or you know someone who has, please email me at jeffnward@comcast.net. I never give up a source!

No woman should have to cry because someone’s finally taking them seriously.

12 thoughts on “Quick Hits – #MeToo hits the KCSAO

  1. Sexual harassment is wrong. Harassment of any sort is wrong. I’d like to point out that many of these prosecutors have no problem harassing defendants (and future private practice opponents), but now are asking for sympathy for the harassment they experienced? I would hope their experiences would make them self reflect on their own behaviors towards people with less power, but that’s probably asking for too much of a moral compass/self awareness. Attorneys like to point fingers at anyone, but themselves.

    It’s hard to feel bad for a lawyer of any gender when they don’t feel bad about their own misdeeds. Particularly when their decision making isn’t based on right or wrong, but rather how it will affect their win record.

    So as someone who has experienced workplace sexual harassment I commiserate and support them. As someone who is well aware they really don’t care about others, well you get what you give in terms of empathy and social outrage.

  2. I am not sure what you are trying to accomplish with this post. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive societal problem. Some employers have gotten out ahead of the curve in figuring out how to effectively solve the problem while other employers have lagged behind, and still others simply do not get it at all. You take a story about an employer getting it right and doing something affirmative to address the problem and turn it into a negative. You are not helping the women because you bring your bias against the leadership of the KCSAO into the story. As a result you are really just exploiting the women who experienced the harassment to advance your own personal agenda.
    I actually personally know all of the people involved and have known each of them for as long as they have been practicing law in Kane County. They are all good people. I know that throughout this process some of the women were disappointed with the initial steps taken to resolve the situation, but ultimately those in charge got it right. We can choose to second guess decisions that were made along the way and talk about what might have been, or we can focus on the future and applaud the decision makers for changing the culture. To suggest that the leadership team who solved the problem need to resign is irresponsible and does nothing to advance the cause of the #metoo movement. I know the legal community as a whole has great respect for Joe McMahon, Jody Gleason, Joe Cullen, and Bill Engerman. I also believe those in the legal community who were aware of the women’s complaints believed the women. Those two positions are not in conflict. I think the legal community needs to take the lead on this issue and make clear its support for Joe McMahon and the rest of the leadership team at the KCSAO, while at the same time supporting the women and taking positive steps forward in eliminating sexual harassment in all of our workplaces.

    1. Michael,

      First, considering the general rabble out there, I truly appreciate the cogent response. It’s completely incorrect, but that’s beside the point. And an attorney who can actually write? That’s rarer than Bigfoot!

      But let’s tackle your erroneous assumptions one at a time:

      1. As far as my “personal agenda” goes, I’ve laid it all out there in writing. Not only that, but in 12 years of journalism, I’ve never let my personal feeling interfere with a piece. Trust me, this post was muted.

      2. The employer did not get it right, has not gotten it right and had no intention of getting right until I turned on the light. The prosecutor would still be there if they weren’t terrified of me getting my hands on that text.

      3. Those women – and trust me, you don’t know who all of them are – certainly didn’t feel like I was exploiting them for one second. They were exceedingly grateful for my efforts. And I will get my hands on those complaints one way or the other.

      4. I had respect for Joe McMahon until I had to work my way through the system as a felony crime victim and as someone consistently harassed and falsely charged by the Geneva Police. I’m sure you know about the directed verdict. And if that’s what befalls someone with a voice, I can only imagine what regular folks have to endure. It wasn’t that I was asking for any favors – I don’t need them – but you’d think someone who regularly helped Joe navigate the Chairman – in writing – would be treated with a little more respect. In the end Joe McMahon is just another self-aggrandizing politician who backstab or step on anyone to advance. And those are exactly the kind of politicians I seek to remove from office, end of story.

      5. There is so much more to come. Those resignations will occur. The other newspapers are going to cover it. More victims are coming forward as a result of this post.

      6. The legal community doesn’t respect Joe McMahon, they fear him. And now, with the bloom off the rose, watch them abandon him one by one.

      I’ll keep you posted!


    1. Beatrice,

      No! Please look at my response to Michael. We even had a very nice private conversation where we agreed to disagree. I could’ve simply deleted his comment if I wanted just like I just deleted Mr. Last’s and my rather terse response to it.

      What I do hate is anonymous cowards consistently taunting and attacking me on my own blog. You didn’t see those comments because I deleted them before they got this far.

      And interestingly enough, two separate attorneys with experience with him think Mr. Lastword is none other than KCSAO traffic and misdemeanor head Joe Cullen. Good writing is like a fingerprint, and great writing is like DNA. Mr. Cullen is a great writer.


    1. You are just another anonymous coward who will have to face up to your karma with, or without me.

      Meanwhile, I told my readers exactly what I was going to do and when the perfect opportunity presented itself, I did just that.

      And I put my name on it, too. You might want to try that sometime.

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