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Kim Foxx Slams Media, Critics For Jussie Smollett Obsession

Foxx said critics overlook the changes she has made and the wrongfully convicted people she's freed — instead focusing their attention on Smollett again and again.

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx addresses the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano’s Banquets on April 25, 2023.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Kim Foxx’s legacy has been tied to the Jussie Smollett scandal by her critics.

And it makes her mad.

Foxx announced Tuesday she won’t run for reelection — and she gave a fiery speech where she excoriated her critics, saying they’ve focused on issues like the Smollett case while ignoring how violent crime fell during her first years in office and how she’s made significant reforms to a long-damaged justice system in Chicago.

RELATED: Kim Foxx Won’t Run For Reelection — And Fires Back At Those Blaming Her For Crime Spike

Foxx said her very presence in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office was “disruptive” since she was the first Black woman to lead the agency after being elected in 2016. But she was focused on enacting reforms, she said.

But critics overlook the changes Foxx has made and the wrongfully convicted people she’s freed — instead focusing their attention on Smollett again and again, she said.

“Probably when I leave this earth, my epitaph will mention Jussie Smollett,” Foxx said. “And it makes me mad.”

Police and prosecutors have said Smollett fabricated a hate crime to gain attention and get a pay raise on “Empire.” The actor told police that, while walking in Steeterville in January 2019, two men yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, put a noose around his neck and threw liquid on him.

The case quickly made national headlines.

But within weeks, police said the account was untrue and charged Smollett with filing a false police report.

Foxx recused herself from the case, and shortly afterward her office dropped charges against Smollett. The office said it was doing so because Smollett had volunteered “in the community” and would give $10,000 to the city by forfeiting his bond.

A special prosecutor, Dan Webb, was eventually called in, and Smollett was convicted of disorderly conduct.

In a report, Webb said there were “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” made by Foxx’s office when it initially dropped charges against the actor.

Many news organizations breathlessly covered the case and trial, and Foxx has, for years, received significant criticism for how her office handled the scandal.

Foxx’s challenger in the 2020 election, Pat O’Brien, referenced the case repeatedly — and Foxx lost ground in that race, particularly in the suburbs.

People ask over and over again if Foxx “has regrets about the Class 4 non-violent felony against a D-list actor actor who committed a crime against himself,” she said — before repeatedly emphasizing Smollett’s crime had been non-violent and “against himself.”

But critics who have focused on that haven’t paid attention to the people Foxx has worked to free or the wrongs she’s sought to undo, she said Tuesday.

“Jose Cruz spent almost 30 years in prison in what he believed would be a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit because he was framed by a corrupt Chicago police detective,” she said.

Foxx met Cruz as he was incarcerated last year, and he told her he hadn’t done the crime, she said. Just the day before, Foxx and her team had met to discuss Cruz’s case — so she knew, even as they met in person, he would soon be going home, she said.

“Mr. Cruz spent his first Thanksgiving and Christmas at home last year,” she said. “But you want to ask me about Jussie.”

Foxx also pointed to the Anjanette Young case, saying she was struck by video of a naked Young as she pleaded for officers to let her put on clothing while they wrongfully raided her home.

“Our office did not wait for others to do the right thing,” Foxx said. “We implemented and changed our search warrant policy such that the state’s attorney’s office would not be complicit in having another Anjanette Young situation, for which our office took part.

“But you want to ask me about Jussie.”

Foxx said those cases — and others she highlighted, like the wrongful convictions of Marilyn Mulero and Clarissa Glenn — showed what her work was focused on.

“These are not just policy differentials,” Foxx said. “These are people. These are not talking points for the left or the right.”

Foxx said the wrongful convictions she overturned have been treated like “human interest stories,” though endless ink has been used to write about the Smollett case.

“And it has never been lost on me that these are not human interest stories; these are indictments of a system that allows for people to prey on people in public housing, do what they will, and nothing happens,” she said. “But you want to ask me about Jussie.”

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