clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kim Foxx says not informing the public is where she went wrong in Smollett case

In her campaign kickoff ad, Foxx acknowledged the case of actor Jussie Smollett could’ve been handled better. But she says she was talking about informing the public, not necessarily the specifics of the case.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

While Kim Foxx again acknowledged she didn’t handle the Jussie Smollett case well, she stressed Friday that her mistakes had more to do with not informing the public with the ins-and-outs of her office, not the investigation itself.

“Though we treated it the way we treated thousands of other cases, what I realized is that I did not handle well informing the public of how and why we do what we do, in particular in this case,” the top Cook County prosecutor told the Chicago-Sun Times. “And I own that. I should’ve done better at that. It didn’t meet the standards that we set for ourselves at the office.”

In her campaign kickoff ad released earlier this week, Foxx acknowledged the former “Empire” actor’s case could have been handled better.

“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,” Foxx said of the investigation in her two-minute digital ad. “I’m making changes in my office to make sure we do better. That’s what reform is about.”

Smollett was accused of making a false report to Chicago police and was indicted in March on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying about being attacked in a hate crime. Weeks later, the state’s attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges, sparking outrage as well as confusion.

Smollett insists he’s innocent. The city has sued him, seeking to recover $130,106 for the investigation it conducted after Smollett made his allegedly false claim. This week, Smollett’s attorneys filed a two-count counterclaim.

In a brief phone interview with the Sun-Times, Foxx focused on her first-term achievements. The state’s attorney’s office is “fundamentally changing how we use out criminal justice resources to keep our community safe,” she said.

She said more gun cases have been prosecuted “year over year since when I came into office,” and the reputation of the office, and the county, has changed from being the false confession capital of the country to one that now leads the country in vacating wrongful convictions. Foxx added that 80 men and women have had their convictions vacated since she became state’s attorney.

Foxx said she’s also proud of the work her office has done on the legalization of marijuana, and beating back the National Rifle Association on the county’s assault weapon ban.

And, she got her former boss, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to agree on something — both back her re-election effort.

The state’s attorney currently faces two challengers in the Democratic primary — former prosecutor Donna More, who ran for the seat in 2016, and Bill Conway, a former prosecutor and a U.S. Navy intelligence officer.

Former 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti plans to jump into the race, too, citing community support and the belief that a state’s attorney “can’t be effective if you’re at war with the police.”

Foxx doesn’t seem too worried about the competition, citing “the benefit of having run for office before, full of ideas and things I wanted to accomplish,” compared to “now being an elected leader ... able to have a record to run on.”

“I’m not just about talking about criminal justice reform — I’m doing it,” Foxx said.

For her, the election is about choices and touting a record of achievements that drown out the mishandling of one case.

“What I will say locally is that we have a choice to make,” Foxx said. “We could talk about one case, even though we know it’s not about one case, it’s about moving forward with criminal justice reform and public safety — or clinging to those things that gave this county a reputation for injustice and unfairness, and so I’m going to push us forward. I’m going to reject the notion that one case will convince voters that we’re not on the right path and we have a record to support that.”