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On excessive dramatics and stupid self-owns

Thursday, Feb 13, 2020

* Zorn

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.

Also

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

31 Comments »
  1. - Watch Out - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:18 pm:

    This is going to get Foxx voted out of office.

    She still hasn’t explained why she dropped the charges. Maybe she can before election day - in the colloquial sense.


  2. - SWIL_Voter - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    its Incredible how we forgive and justify literal police murders and stuff like the EIU student threatened with death and held at gunpoint, but some actor lying is cause for over a year of sputtering rage


  3. - Charlie Brown - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:21 pm:

    Great recap, Rich.


  4. - Not for Nothing - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:33 pm:

    I understand the Jussie fatigue but the Kim Foxx Stans need to come to grips with the reality that she mangled a heater in case in the most ham handed way an assistant states attorney can, and doubled down the last year with the “you just don’t get it” defense. If she doesn’t pivot soon she’ll wake up on the 18th wondering where it all went wrong.


  5. - SSL - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    Book’em Danno.

    Kim messed up bigtime. No two ways about it. Say what you want, the actor staged it and compounded his actions when found out. You don’t let people like that off. Unless you want more of it.


  6. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    This would not still be an issue but for her office botching the initial deal — no required contrition, no plea (not even to a single lesser count), everything done behind closed doors or at unannounced hearings, etc. At the very least part of the deal should have been “you go out there and proclaim your innocence and this deal is off and we go to trial.” As far as the continued attention, I think there has always been an element of “Hey, you can’t talk that way about our city. Only we can talk that way about our city.” to it. I doubt she loses the primary given her party backing and it’s a four way primary, but this could be an instance where people deviate from the palm cards.


  7. - Watch Out - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:34 pm:

    Kim Foxx lets celebrities walk free but prosecuted a woman on the south side for the same crime. How noble of her.


  8. - Rutro - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:38 pm:

    IMHO, I see Foxx’s biggest liability is no Dem Presidential candidate motivating African Americans to the polls. Further, with no real Republican contests in Cook County there’s a chance they pull D’s because they too are offended by the Smollet fiasco. I could see the Donald tweeting about this in the near future.


  9. - 19th Ward Guy - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:45 pm:

    The machine that backs Foxx is nonexistent. She will lose and thereby toss another shovel full of dirt on the Chicago Dem operation. All of this a win for voters. A lot of great Democrats in Chicago now not under the thumb of party bosses. The new mayor a prime example. A very good development for the City and State.


  10. - Responsa - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:53 pm:

    Jussie shouldn’t get a pass and neither should Kim. Based on admittedly purely anecdotal evidence (convos and personal interactions with a number of friends and business associates) I think Foxx is going to get less of the suburban Cook County vote than she did in her first election. She had a great background story and people genuinely wanted to give her the chance to expand her wings and fly. But now to many, she has an Icarus flying too near the sun aura. And not just because of the Jussie foul-up.


  11. - Oak Parker - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 12:56 pm:

    The results for this race will be crazy to look at. There will be some precincts where she gets over 90% of the vote and others where she gets under 10%.


  12. - Been There - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:14 pm:

    === and he’s still functioning.===
    Not sure how I feel about that quote. Still running the country but functioning? The captain of the Titanic was technically still functioning when the ship sank I guess so you are not wrong.


  13. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:17 pm:

    Not sure if this is good or bad, but at least the Smollett story has given us a new Kass column for the rotation. What are we up to now, 3 or 4 of the same thing printed over and over again?


  14. - Been There - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:20 pm:

    === This is going to get Foxx voted out of office.===
    I think she still wins. While as 19th Ward noted the machine is not really a machine anymore and when something is this high profile it only gets you a few percentage point bump anyway.
    But in a four way race with three white challengers against an incumbent black who’s has a progressive record besides this fiasco I think she wins.
    I’m not voting for her but I only get one vote.


  15. - Paddyrollingstone - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:22 pm:

    I thought Zorn’s article was good but I think part of the blame for the fiasco goes to the defense attorneys. Pat Holmes and Ron Safer are fabulous attorneys and good people. Their mistake, I believe, was not to understand what the victory for their client would mean to the prosecutors. Its one thing to get a fabulous deal that makes the prosecutor look bad if you don’t plan on coming back to Cook County but if you work in this system, you should endeavor never to make the other side look bad, especially in a plea deal of some sort. I know that Pat and Ron have done a lot of work for the County and the City (Ron was the City’s attorney in the challenge to the president’s ban on federal aid to sanctuary cities). I would not expect them to get any more of that business anytime soon.

    An old lobbyist once told me that you have to be careful to not make the target of your lobbying do something that might get him into trouble or else you won’t be working in the industry very long. Words to live by.


  16. - City Zen - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:26 pm:

    ==This is going to get Foxx voted out of office.==

    Not against three challengers it won’t.


  17. - City Zen - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:33 pm:

    ==some actor lying is cause for over a year of sputtering rage==

    Why am I reminded of the “that’s one way to say it” conversation between Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction?


  18. - Oak Parker - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:39 pm:

    I’m picking up that the black community is unified behind Kim Foxx in a way that hasn’t happened for a local candidate since Harold Washington. In light of that, I just don’t see her losing this election.


  19. - Keyrock - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 1:57 pm:

    The Foxx story is complicated. Many evaluations, perhaps understandably in campaign season, focus on one side or the other.

    She has done some very good things, including trying to change the culture of the office, bail reform, and taking seriously revisiting potential wrongful convictions.

    She also has done some important things poorly. Many of her first round of management hires left, in part out of dissatisfaction with her. The bail reform has not always been implemented well, as the Tribune’s story today demonstrates. And Smollett.

    In my view, she’s an improvement over Alvarez, but it”s a mixed record.


  20. - SouthSide Markie - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 2:02 pm:

    == “I think she should resign, now,” said Donna More ==

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-donna-more-cook-county-states-attorney-met-20160304-story.html

    Pot meet kettle.


  21. - Madison - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 2:49 pm:

    Eric Zorn’s rambling and insufferable prose has been one of life’s great consistencies - a straight line from the Michigan Daily until now.


  22. - JoanP - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 3:00 pm:

    @- Paddyrollingstone

    So, in other words, an attorney shouldn’t do what is best for her client if it means the prosecution looks bad? There’s an ARDC beef waiting to happen.


  23. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    I agree with Been There about calling Trump functional.


  24. - Downstate - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 4:01 pm:

    Should the penalty for a false report be different for a defendant that goes on national airwaves to promote the story versus one that doesn’t?


  25. - Trapped in the ‘burbs - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 4:49 pm:

    I’m surprised that nobody seems to care about the King Spaulding report written by Zach Fardon and Patrick Collins about the hiring of outside counsel by Foxx’s office. One of her top people was giving business to his former firm at $500 an hour. He bypassed the existing protocol for excessive rate approval and had a subordinate approve it to keep it from established oversight. When discovered she allowed him to resign and took no further action. She should have turned it over to the AG or the federal prosecutors for review and reported the subordinate to the ARDC. She did nothing. The report is online. Chicago media haven’t given it much attention. The report came out in 2018. She didn’t understand conflict and recusal then and still hasn’t figured it out.


  26. - revvedup - Thursday, Feb 13, 20 @ 5:09 pm:

    Foxx (and Magats) not merely made serious mistakes, but far outside prosecutorial discretion committed multiple acts in their official capacities when legally barred from doing so, giving rise to Official Misconduct charges (a criminal offense), as well as disbarment by the ARDC for multiple violations of the rules for professional conduct.


  27. - 17% Solution - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 6:57 am:

    == Foxx (and Magats) not merely made serious mistakes, but far outside prosecutorial discretion committed multiple acts in their official capacities when legally barred from doing so, giving rise to Official Misconduct charges (a criminal offense), as well as disbarment by the ARDC for multiple violations of the rules for professional conduct.==
    Heavens to Betsy. No they didn’t. They committed prosecutorial discretion.


  28. - 17% Solution - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 7:02 am:

    == When discovered she allowed him to resign and took no further action.==
    The guy lost his job. He can’t collect unemployment insurance. The services were performed by the law firm, just not the amount that you like. So what more do you want?


  29. - Trapped in the ‘burbs - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 8:34 am:

    Unemployment insurance? He went on to his next gig seamlessly. The only downside was the expense for his lawyer to protect him. If the misuse of public funds, covering up the payments and a complete of accountability doesn’t trouble you, there’s nothing that I can say. It bothers me.


  30. - 17% Solution - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 9:21 am:

    Yeah well the guy lost his job for not following protocols. And maybe his pension. What more do you want?


  31. - 17% Solution - Friday, Feb 14, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    You are trying to make the case that the fee is too much or that the principal was too chummy with the law firm. But that doesn’t prove that the public was ripped off if the law firm performed the work. $500 isn’t outside the norm for law firm work and the work was performed. The point was the guy didn’t follow protocol and he got fired.
    So there was accountability. He got fired.
    Here is some info about law firm prices; https://www.upcounsel.com/how-much-does-a-lawyer-cost


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