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Foxx acknowledges ‘angst and fear’ triggered by homicides, looting, but denies her ‘social agenda’ is responsible

What happened in Chicago also occurred in places “in which I wasn’t the state’s attorney ... in L.A., in New York,” Foxx told the Sun-Times. “I understand the angst and fear. But we owe it to the public to not overly simplify what has happened in our streets over the last several months.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx talks to reporters Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, after an exoneration hearing in cases connected to corrupt former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx talks to reporters in February after an exoneration hearing in cases connected to corrupt former Chicago Police Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Sun-Times file

Embattled Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Thursday she understands the “angst and fear” Chicagoans feel after two devastating rounds of looting and a 50% surge in homicides and shootings, but her “social agenda” is not responsible.

“I don’t for a moment forget how I grew up in this city — in one of the toughest housing projects in the country: Cabrini Green. What I recognize, when people throw out the words `social agenda’ is that, if we’re gonna do anything to deal with the violence in our communities, we have to take a broad, holistic view,” she said.

“Otherwise, the fear and angst that we saw this summer as people took to the streets and a segment of them then went and destroyed property is gonna continue to cycle if we don’t address the issues that are underlying all of this.”

Foxx said “everything is on the table,” including the possibility of reversing or modifying her controversial decision to raise the felony threshold for shoplifting offenses — from $300 to $1,000.

But she argued strongly that her December 2016 decision to raise that bar played no role in either the precipitous spike in Chicago violence or the rampant looting and civil unrest after the death of George Floyd.

“What we saw in the city of Chicago this summer was played out in cities across the country in which I wasn’t the state’s attorney. We saw those same scenes in L.A., in New York,” she told the Sun-Times.

“I understand the angst and fear. But we owe it to the public to not overly simplify what has happened in our streets over the last several months. It is tempting. It is easy. It is picky to say this must be correlated to that. If we over-simplify what we have seen this year, then create policy tailored to just that, we’re gonna do what we’re doing right now: Look at policies from 30 years ago and try to undo the harm.”

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), whose downtown ward was devastated by two rounds of looting, bolted from the Democratic Party this week to endorse Republican Pat O’Brien.

Reilly complained about Foxx’s failure to aggressively prosecute gun crimes and repeat offenders. He argued police are “arresting people for the same crimes over and over” and police call the state’s attorney’s office a “revolving door.”

Foxx downplayed the impact of that defection and repeatedly called the alderman “O’Reilly.”

The state’s attorney didn’t apologize for pulling out of debates with Pat O’Brien, citing his “Trump-like” attacks and falsehoods.

“Mr. O’Brien raised the Trump boogey man. Mr. O’Brien has unapologetically run on a law-and-order platform. Mr. O’Brien has also used the same fear-mongering rhetoric that Donald Trump uses. When Donald Trump talks to suburban voters and how he’s keeping their communities safe, it’s the exact same rhetoric,” she said.

Foxx argued O’Brien’s decision to accept the endorsement of and maximum contribution from the Fraternal Order of Police has so compromised her opponent that he will no longer be free to hold Chicago police officers accountable.

Former Cook County Circuit Judge Pat O’Brien (center) announces he’s officially in the race to unseat State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Former Cook County Circuit Judge Pat O’Brien (center) announced his run for Cook County state’s attorney in November 2019.
Sun-Times file

“He believes that he should be in lock-step with the police. We should work with them. But we are also a check. And he can’t do that. Once you have their money, the ability to be able to hold them accountable diminishes,” she said.

Foxx once again hammered O’Brien for his role in the trial of four men after the 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of 23-year-old medical student Lori Roscetti in Chicago.

O’Brien was lead prosecutor. Four men were convicted — three sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the fourth to 12 years. DNA evidence missed by a crime lab analyst led to the exoneration of the four men. They were pardoned by then-Gov. George Ryan.

“He was in office in 1990 and `91, [when] we had 900-plus homicides. … We were wrongfully convicting people, where police misconduct and torture were happening regularly. Jon Burge wasn’t a prosecutor. They relied on prosecutors to continue this. We will go back to an era where anything goes. We cannot afford that,” she said.

“It is the reason that we teach about police torture in our classrooms now as a result of the settlements. It’s the reason we don’t have the death penalty in Illinois anymore. Mr. O’Brien was front-and-center in that era.”

Foxx acknowledged her mentor, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Toni Preckwinkle, did her no favors by dumping Judge Michael Toomin from the Democratic ticket. Toomin ordered a special prosecutor to investigate how Foxx’s office handled charges that former Empire actor Jussie Smollett staged a hate crime against himself.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has said she was “deeply concerned” about a decision that, as she put it, “Looks like retaliation.”

“Judge Toomin ordered a review of this case. I said I was open to a review. The findings were made. For this to continue to be an issue for me has been disappointing. But, it was not my dog in that fight,” Foxx said.