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Chicago Tribune Exposes Richard Irvin’s Not-So-“Tough-on-Crime” Record
A new report from the Chicago Tribune slams Richard Irvin for promoting himself as “tough-on-crime” while hiding his record of getting paid to keep clients accused of kidnapping, domestic violence, and other crimes he now condemns in campaign ads out of jail.
“Since becoming a candidate for governor, Irvin’s public statements have shown subtle adjustments to his approach on crime,” the Tribune reported.
The Tribune pointed to court records showing Irvin represented a man accused of assaulting a police officer, and Irvin’s law firm represented Gary Martin, who went on to commit the worst mass shooting in Aurora history.
As they have on every other issue that isn’t politically convenient, Irvin’s campaign refused to answer specific questions about his record or why he hasn’t mentioned it during his campaign.
Now that big donor Ken Griffin is pushing him into a law-and-order role, Irvin is desperate to hide how he downplayed domestic violence, appealed to violent offenders, and advertised his time as a prosecutor as helpful in forming defense strategies.
This isn’t the first time Irvin has been caught flip-flopping. He’s been called out by opponents for voting in Democratic primaries for years, supporting Gov. JB Pritzker, and changing his stance on COVID safety measures.
The Tribune also highlighted how Irvin “staunchly endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement” but now says “all lives matter” in his campaign launch video.
Read key excerpts from the new report below:
As a Republican candidate for governor, Richard Irvin has promoted himself as a no-nonsense, law-and-order candidate who as a onetime prosecutor put “gangsters, drug dealers and wife beaters” in jail.
Shortly before becoming mayor of Aurora in 2017 and stepping away from his law practice, for example, he represented a man accused of attacking a police officer. He’s also represented clients accused of kidnapping, domestic violence and sexual assault.
It’s a significant but unmentioned part of his resume as he follows a tough-on-crime Republican script to go after Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his fellow Democrats.
The crime issue has been pushed by billionaire businessman Ken Griffin, whose long-anticipated support of Irvin was formally announced last week and whose money is seen as critical to the GOP candidate’s success. Griffin, who has promised to go “all-in” to defeat Pritzker, made an initial contribution of $20 million to Irvin’s campaign.
In a widely aired campaign TV spot, Irvin portrays himself as being on the front lines in the fight against crime. “When I was a prosecutor, I’d go around with these guys. We raided crack houses and busted up gangs,” he says, implying he’s with a police officer. “This apartment complex over here? It was bad. But we took it back.”
The Law Office of Richard C. Irvin & Associates merged with another attorney’s firm in 2017 when Irvin took office as Aurora’s first Black mayor. His original firm’s website said 90% of Irvin’s focus as an attorney was on criminal defense, and that the firm handled drug cases and an array of felony cases ranging from robbery and burglary to home invasion and reckless homicide.
The site explained how a domestic battery charge can be “successfully defended” in court: “If the victim is the only other person present when the battery occurs, and the victim does not appear in court, the state cannot prevail in the case.”
Irvin’s website went dark just last week, which quickly became political fodder for Democrats.
“Maybe it’s his use of language that downplays the severity of domestic violence, blaming it on how ‘emotions can run hot’ or ‘tempers can flare,’ or how his ‘Aurora domestic violence attorneys will zealously defend’ the rights of violent abusers,” the Democratic Governors Association said in a statement released Friday.
Since becoming a candidate for governor, Irvin’s public statements have shown subtle adjustments to his approach on crime.
During the 2020 civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, Irvin staunchly endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement, which has become synonymous with a push to fully or partially reallocate police resources to communities in economic peril — sometimes referred to as “defunding” the police.
But in his launch video for governor, Irvin declared that “all lives matter” — words that were superimposed on the screen — while pledging unwavering support for law enforcement.
In a Feb. 14 fundraising email, Irvin went even further by giving away “Proud to Back the Blue” stickers to donors to his campaign.
Kane County court records provide a look at many of the cases he handled. In 2017, shortly before leaving his practice, Irvin represented Alexander Nunez, who was accused of kicking a police officer in the left shoulder and face, and punching someone else in the face, court records show.
Irvin in 2007 represented Juan Martinez, one of several alleged gang members accused of abducting eight people, four of them children or teenagers, from a restaurant at gunpoint and holding them captive at a Carpentersville home, court records show.
Another client of Irvin’s was Enrique Prado, convicted of concealing the 2013 homicidal death of 18-year-old Abigail Villalpando, court records show. Villalpando, described by relatives and co-workers as a hardworking teenager who aspired to become a cop, was beaten with a hammer, doused with gasoline and set on fire. An arson charge against Prado was later dropped.
Irvin’s law firm partner was Reginald Campbell, now a Kane County judge. In 2009, Campbell represented Gary Martin, who later committed the worst mass shooting in Aurora history, over two restraining orders filed by an ex-girlfriend.
Irvin was Aurora’s mayor in 2019 when Martin opened fire at the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora, killing five people and wounding six others, five of them police officers, before being shot and killed by police.
The campaign did not answer specific questions sent in writing about Irvin’s career as a criminal defense attorney or why he has ignored it during his campaign.
Irvin has joined the other Republican candidates in blasting the sweeping criminal justice law Pritzker signed a year ago. In an interview after announcing his candidacy, Irvin contended the law led to increased outbreaks of violent crime and had a role in the deaths of eight law enforcement officers.
But many of the sweeping criminal justices changes that were part of the law, including a controversial end to cash bail, have yet to take effect, which Pritzker noted in response when he said that Irvin “doesn’t really understand the law.”