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EDITORIAL: No need to call in feds for Foxx’s handling of Smollett case

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after R. Kelly was ordered held on a $1 million bond, in Chicago. The Chicago police union's president alleges that the county's top prosecutor interfered with the probe of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett before recusing herself and wants the Justice Department to investigate. WLS-TV in Chicago reports that Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham wrote the Justice Department following reports that Foxx asked Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to let the FBI investigate Smollett's allegations that he was attacked.

Suburban police chiefs and the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police have voted "no confidence" in Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. | Sun-Times file photo

This week’s call by Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police for a federal investigation of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is, to be charitable, off target.

The police union wants a federal probe of Foxx’s actions in the case of Jussie Smollett, who earlier this month was indicted on 16 counts because he made allegedly phony claims of being the victim of a hate-crime attack.

The FOP is steamed because, early on in the investigation, Foxx asked Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the case over to the FBI after she exchanged text messages and emails with a relative and a supporter of Smollett. Foxx eventually recused herself from the case because of this.

Here’s our take on where Foxx went wrong:

After Foxx was contacted by Tina Tchen, a chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, and exchanged messages with the Smollett relative, Foxx should have declined to have any conversation whatsoever about turning over the case to the FBI. Smollett’s clearly is a case that should be handled by the state’s attorney’s office.

Instead, Foxx — in office a little more than two years — made what we’d like to think is a rookie mistake, choosing to engage Johnson.

That leaves her owing the public a clearer explanation of why she did that. If she thought Chicago police weren’t doing a good — or fair — job on the racially and politically sensitive case, she should reveal the facts that might support that.

Moreover, she should have been up front with the public right from the start, instead of making the news media pull out the details about her interactions with Tchen and the Smollett relative. Foxx provided her emails and text messages about the case to the Chicago Sun-Times only after the newspaper filed a public records request.

We want top law enforcement authorities like Foxx to be closely monitoring high-profile investigations. Next time, Foxx shouldn’t compromise her ability to do so.

But the FOP’s call for a federal investigation is way over the top. Foxx made amends by recusing herself, but it’s unfortunate things came to that.

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