CHICAGO (CBS)– Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has announced her plans to seek re-election in 2020, taking on controversy surrounding her office by admitting in her first campaign ad she didn’t handle the Jussie Smollett case well.
State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announces her re-election in a video release.
Addresses Jussie Smollett fallout head-on.
“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that.”
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) November 19, 2019
Foxx was elected state’s attorney in 2016, after defeating embattled incumbent Anita Alvarez in the Democratic primary, and then coasting to victory over Republican Chrisopher Pfannkuche in the general election. Alvarez had come under fire for her handling of the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“Four years ago, I ran for state’s attorney to change criminal justice in Cook County. I’m running again, because we’re only getting started,” she said.
Foxx has faced intense scrutiny, including two separate investigations of her office, for how she handled the Smollett case.
“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well,” she said. “I own that.”
Foxx’s abruptly dropped the charges against Smollett in March, who was accused of making up a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago.
Smollett was charged and pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime, but Cook County prosecutors dropped the charges against Smollett after he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail and performed 16 hours of community service.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the attack.
Foxx recused herself from the case, citing a conflict. She appointed First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats the lead prosecutor. Foxx’s office later said it was not a formal recusal. Rather, Foxx separated herself from decision-making out of an abundance of caution.
“Sooo……I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases…16 counts on a class 4 becomes exhibit A,” she wrote in one text.
She went on to compare Smollett’s case with that of singer R. Kelly.
“Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16. On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally. Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
A review by a top official in her own office concluded Foxx should not have appointed Magats to act on her behalf after announcing she’d recused herself.
Citing case law, Alan Spellberg, supervisor of the criminal appeals division for the state’s attorney’s office, said in an email:
“My conclusion from all of these authorities is that while the State’s Attorney has the complete discretion to recuse herself from any matter, she cannot simply direct someone (even the First Assistant) to act in her stead.”
Foxx has asked the county’s inspector general to review her handling of the case. A Cook County judge also has appointed former federal prosecutor Dan Webb as a special prosecutor to investigate all aspects of the Smollett case, including Foxx’s involvement, and whether or not the charges should be reinstated.