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Foxx names veteran prosecutor to head Special Prosecutions division

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A veteran prosecutor will return to run the division that handles high-profile and complex cases for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Charise Valente, who began her legal career as a clerk for the office while studying law at Loyola University, will be sworn in Thursday as head of the Special Prosecutions Division, a spokesman for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said.

Valente replaces former federal prosecutor Steve Block, one of Foxx’s early hires when she first took over the office, who left in November for a job in the private sector. Valente herself left the state’s attorney’s office in 2016 to serve as general counsel to the Chicago Police Department, lead legal adviser to Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Among other complex cases, Special Prosecutions had handled the prosecution of law enforcement officers accused of misconduct, assignments that will shift to staff overseen by Chief Ethics Officer April Perry.

Valente’s tenure with CPD coincided with a busy season for department lawyers: Before she started in the role, federal investigators had already opened a wide-ranging civil rights probe of the department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. Valente was on the team that negotiated a consent decree that will see the department come under the supervision of a federal judge for the foreseeable future. The general counsel’s staff reviewed department policy amid a wave of reforms, including changes to the department’s use-of-force policy, as well.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who appointed Valente, does not seem likely to remain in his job for long after the April mayoral runoff election between County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former city Police Board President Lori Lightfoot. Preckwinkle said during her campaign she would fire Johnson, and Lightfoot would only say that she did not want to disrupt leadership of the department just weeks before the start of the seasonal spike in violence this spring.

In her last posting with the state’s attorney’s office, Valente worked as a supervisor in the Felony Trial division and notably kept a handful of cases on her personal docket while supervising more than 20 attorneys, according to a 2011 article in Chicago Lawyer.

As a line prosecutor, Valente handled the case of Robin Johnson, a 50-year-old woman who shot and killed CPD Officer Richard Francis, and the murder trial of Moses Phillips, was convicted of the murder of 10-year-old Siretha White.