ROCKFORD — Paul Carpenter, the Democratic candidate for Winnebago County state’s attorney, was fired Tuesday from the office in the middle of a heated campaign.
Carpenter has worked as an assistant state’s attorney for more than nine years, primarily in the civil division. He said he was fired on Tuesday for donating $25 from his personal funds to replace a journalist’s photography equipment that had been damaged during an arrest at a local protest, he said.
“I believe in the importance of journalists covering these important events in our community,” Carpenter said in a written statement. “Just like other donations I have made to organizations like the Family Peace Center, the Rockford Rescue Mission, and the United Way Covid Relief Fund, this was done with my own money, on my own time. I did not violate any law or any policy of the state’s attorney’s office.”
“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 made the donation through GoFundMe, where organizers of the campaign said funds went toward replacing photography equipment for Albert Riley Jr., who has photographed multiple protests as a citizen journalist throughout the summer. Riley’s equipment was broken when he was arrested Friday during protests outside Rockford City Market. He was charged with aggravated battery in a public way and resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
“This fundraiser is to cover Albert Cheeks Riley Jr.’s loss of equipment, loss of work (and what it will take to rebuild his business) and the expense of emotional and physical healing,” said Angela Barron, who organized the GoFundMe, in a message to the Register Star.
Riley has also worked as a freelance photojournalist for the Register Star, although he was not working for the newspaper at the time of his arrest.
Carpenter is in the Nov. 3 election facing Republican J. Hanley, legal director for the Rock River Water Reclamation District and a former U.S. attorney.
It is expected to be one of the more hotly contested and consequential local races.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross could not immediately be reached for comment.
Staff writer Kevin Haas contributed to this report.
Jeff Kolkey: [email protected]; @jeffkolkey