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MORRIS — Grundy County Sheriff Ken Briley released a statement on the Grundy County Sheriff's Office Facebook page recently, stating that his office will follow the lead of Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland and will not prosecute violations of Governor JB Pritzker's stay-at-home order.
The statement reads:
"I've received many calls here at the Sheriff's Office regarding the Governor's Executive Order and how it affects businesses, church services, weddings, graduation parties, and events on private property, amongst a host of other COVID-19-related questions.
"People have called asking for permission and/or guidance on what they can and can't do, and what will happen if they exercise their constitutional rights. Will they be fined? Will they be arrested? Will the Sheriff's office stop them if they deviate from the Governor's Executive Order? The short answer is no. However, please remember a business has a right to make decisions regarding masks and COVID-19-related requirements.
"The first thing I tell those who all is thanks for being responsible and trying to do the right thing. I believe most of the residents of Grundy County are doing the right thing, but want to go about living their lives. That includes day-to-day activities. Most of these calls have come since the Governor extended the stay at home order and lumped Grundy County in with Cook County. Ladies and gentlemen, we are not Cook County. We are a rural community who believes in freedom, the rule of law, and support the constitution. With that said, you can absolutely count on the Sheriff's Office to do just that, as we take our solemn oath to defend the constitution very seriously.
"Kids are graduating from school, leaving for military service and parents and family members want to celebrate those graduations and have family gatherings before their sons or daughters go off to serve our country. People are getting married and beginning their lives together and want to share that joy with their families. Needless to say, people want to live, not just exist!
"This is new to all of us and I don't claim to have all the answers, but what I do know is the citizens of Grundy County elected me as the Sheriff not to trample on their constitutional rights, but to defend them. I took an oath to uphold, support and defend the constitution and I will do that to the best of my ability, so long as I am your Sheriff. That, you can count on!
"I do believe the virus is something to be concerned about, as I am sure all of you are, but to what point do we let this control our life or livelihood? People are hurting, business owners are worried if they will ever re-open or when under this Governor's plan. Those are legitimate concerns. The question is, do we let our businesses die from worry, fear, panic, wondering when or where our next paycheck is going to come from. Do we give up what was, just a few months ago, a normal life and replace it with fear and apprehension? Do we as a community accept this as the new normal? Do we watch as our once great community of local businesses dry up and close down, never to return? That is what keeps me up at night. I love this community and there is no doubt we are all hurting right now, but we are not Chicago, we are not Cook County. We are Grundy, and we are fully aware of the virus and what it does and doesn't do. We are a community of doers, makers and most importantly, neighborly people who just want to raise our children and provide them a better future.
"So, let's talk a little bit about calls I've received from business owners asking about, "Can I open my business? What will happen if I do? Will I get arrested or fined?"
"I can assure you the Sheriff's Office will not arrest or ticket you for trying to make a living. However, since the State of Illinois or local municipalities have the ultimate authority over business license, I cannot guarantee your business, liquor or sanitation license won't get suspended or revoked. I have heard the Governor say he will do just that if businesses open against his orders. One last thing to consider before you decide to open is, will your insurance company insure you if you open during a declared emergency? Let's hope the Governor reconsiders moving Grundy County out of the Cook County map region.
"In regards to other calls I've received regarding weddings, graduation parties, etc.
"The Sheriff's Office does not have the authority to stop these types of events. Again, people are concerned if they have a graduation party or wedding on their private farm out in the country, will the Sheriff's Office shut them down? Speaking for just the Grundy County Sheriff's Office, the short answer is NO, WE WILL NOT!
"Most everyone I spoke to regarding these types of events have provided in detail how they will keep everyone safe by limiting the number of people in attendance, holding their event outside where social distance is easy to maintain, etc. That shows me people are taking the virus seriously, but want to live their lives.
"The Sheriff's Office is not going to ticket you or arrest you for having a graduation party. That's not illegal.
"I've spoken to our State's Attorney, Jason Helland, about this on numerous occasions, and he has relayed to me he will not prosecute violations of the Governor's Executive Order. On April 21, Chief Deputy Director David Robinson of the Appellate Prosecutor's Office wrote an opinion regarding the constitutionality of the executive order.
"Deputy Director Robinson writes, 'My research leaves me less than confident that a reviewing court will hold that the Governor has the authority to close businesses, bar attendance, church services, and assemblies in excess of 10 citizens.' He goes on to say, 'From a strict enforcement standpoint, although well-intentioned on an emergency basis, the Executive Order appears to be beyond the frame work of the specific act it cites as support.'
"As citizens of a free society, we have a choice. If we feel that entering a store or place of business is not in our best interest, we don't have to. If we believe that there is not a risk or we are willing to accept that risk, we do by our own choice.
"Let me close by saying this. We at the Sheriff's Office are taking the virus seriously. However, we are not letting inmates our of jail as a result of the pandemic, we are not writing tickets for not maintaining social distance or shutting down graduation parties. We are law enforcement officers and we will uphold our oath of office by not trampling on your rights as citizens of this great country.
"I hope this answers questions you have about my position as Sheriff."