Less than three weeks after a Cook County grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct last March, Foxx’s office abruptly dropped all charges against him with no guilty plea, no formal fine, no court supervision and no community service beyond a few hours he’d spent volunteering at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. This allowed Smollett to head to the courthouse lobby and proclaim his innocence, jabbing a thumb into the eye of the public that twisted there until Tuesday, when Webb announced a six-count indictment restating the old charges against Smollett.
In an accompanying statement, Webb noted that his investigation found no evidence that Foxx routinely disposed of cases the way she disposed of the Smollett case, as she’d claimed, and that “decision-makers overseeing the Smollett resolution decision have not identified any new evidence they learned of between the time of indictment and dismissal of the indictment that changed their view that the evidence against Mr. Smollett was strong.”
So what happened during the interim between indictment and full exoneration? That question has loomed over the March 17 primary battle between Foxx and three Democratic challengers largely because Foxx has refused to answer it, using as her excuse Webb’s investigation, which, as far as her conduct is concerned, is still ongoing.
Webb’s statement advised that his “decision to further prosecute Mr. Smollett is not evidence in and of itself that any individuals within the (Cook County state’s attorney’s office) engaged in any wrongdoing in connection with the Smollett investigation.”
* Smollett deserves plenty of scorn and Foxx messed up by not making him at least show some contrition and by not fully explaining why she did what she did. But the more than year-long media coverage of this case has just been way over the top, perhaps because so many excessively hyped Smollett’s questionable story at the beginning.
I mean, “jabbing a thumb into the eye of the public that twisted there until Tuesday” is a bit on the dramatic side, if you ask me. Chicago has long had a deserved reputation for wearing its inferiority complex on its sleeve, but that’s ridiculous.
Make no mistake, Foxx has supremely bungled several things (and, apparently, lied about past practices) along the way, which has only made matters far more perilous for her.
But the bottom line here is Foxx exercised prosecutorial discretion when she let a two-bit actor go free - not all that different from the southern Illinois prosecutors who regularly boast about refusing to enforce some state gun laws. You may not think it’s the right decision, but prosecutors have a whole lot of discretion. And they’re all elected, so people can always vote them out, particularly if they aren’t forthcoming about what they did. We’re about to find out if that will be the case with Foxx.
* Some of the media spin is ridic…
And in another bit of conveniently timed news, a new report heaps praise on Foxx for her work in criminal justice reform. The Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice and the Chicago Council of Lawyers say policies under Foxx have resulted in “far fewer black and Latino people being sent to prison,” according to the Sun-Times.
Heaven forbid that the public isn’t told stuff like this a month before an election…
The report focused on the years 2012 — when Alvarez was in office — and 2019 because the two had similar crime rates.
On average, 1,063 black and Latino people were sent to prison every month in 2012 after prosecutions by the Alvarez administration. In 2019, the average was down to 706, according to the report.
If anything, that got buried under the Webb indictments.
* And then there’s this…
“I think she should resign, now,” said Donna More, who’s challenging Foxx in the March 17 Democratic primary. “She should resign because, while everyone is presumed innocent, the media frenzy will occupy her, and take her attention away from being able to do her job. How can she function? She can’t.”
Oh, please. President Trump takes far more in-coming on an hourly basis than Foxx has collectively endured for more than a year and he’s still functioning.
And what the hell was Foxx thinking when she took calls about Smollett’s heater case?
As far as we know, that call she took was when Smollet was still considered a victim.
* But Foxx’s response to the new indictments was completely disingenuous…
What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive.
Webb is a special prosecutor. His appointment has (unlike in the federal government) no tradition of or rules about holding off on indictments until after an election.
Anyway, it’s gonna be a rough four weeks in that county. Foxx should at least try to avoid further self-owns.