Jussie Smollett case: Who is Kim Foxx, Chicago’s top prosecutor?

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2019 @ 1:31 PM

What You Need to Know: Jussie Smollett Case

The Department of Justice will investigate the decision by Chicago prosecutors to drop 16 felony counts against actor Jussie Smollett, who claimed falsely, police say, that he was the victim of a hate crime there. 

President Donald Trump said dropping the charges that Smollett orchestrated a fake hate crime in Chicago in January was an “embarrassment to our Nation.”

On Tuesday, the Cook County State's Attorney Office announced that it had dropped the charges of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report against the “Empire” actor and sealed the information surrounding his case, meaning he would not go to trial. The state’s attorney office did not offer an explanation as to why he was being cleared of the charges.
 

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Smollett’s attorney said her client was not offered a deal by prosecutors in exchange for having the felony charges dropped. The state’s attorney office noted Smollett’s “volunteer service in the community” and the fact he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond payment. Prosecutors also pointed out that Smollett had no criminal record.

Smollett’s attorney said her client was not offered a deal by prosecutors in exchange for having the felony charges dropped. The state’s attorney’s office noted Smollett’s “volunteer service in the community,” and the fact he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond payment. Prosecutors also pointed out that Smollett had no criminal record.
 

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx on Wednesday defended her office's decision to drop the charges against Smollett.

"I believe this is a just outcome based on the circumstances," Foxx said. She noted that it is not unusual to drop charges in exchange for restitution and some sort of community service. Foxx also said she believed the evidence against Smollett was enough to charge and prosecute the actor.

"Based on the facts and the evidence that was presented in the charging decision that was made by this office, this office believed that they could prove him guilty." 

Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case a week before the actor was charged with filing a false police report. She said she left the case after she was connected to a relative of Smollett’s through Tina Tchen, former first lady Michelle Obama’s one-time chief of staff.

Tchen issued this statement on Wednesday, “My sole activity was to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public,” the statement read.

Foxx explained that "The family had reached out, I think to me, largely because they didn't have a connection to the police department, asking if there was a way to make sure that the leaks in the case were to a minimum. I don't want any speculation or concern, I don't even want the appearance, that my involvement with this case, now having talked to a family member, would in any way impede this investigation,” Foxx said.

The Smollett case is not the first one that has pushed Foxx onto the national stage. Recently, she brought sexual assault charges against rapper R. Kelly.

Here’s a look at Chicago’s top prosecutor:

  • Foxx, 46, took over the Cook County State’s Attorney Office on Dec. 1, 2016. The office is the second-largest prosecutor’s office in the country, with nearly 800 attorneys and 1,500 employees.
  • Foxx served as an assistant state’s attorney for 12 years. She also served as a guardian ad litem, where she worked as “an attorney advocating for children navigating the child welfare system,” according to the Cook County State’s Attorney website.
  • Foxx has faced criticism over her actions in the Smollett case. A memo officials in the prosecutor’s office that was circulated on Wednesday, threw into question Foxx’s claim that Smollett received no special treatment. The memo was a request to Cook County prosecutors for examples of cases similar to Smollett’s where charges were dropped.
  • Foxx’s office’s actions in the Smollett case have also been criticized by the National District Attorneys Association.
  • The Fraternal Order of Police delivered a letter to the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago, alleging that Foxx had tried to compromise its investigation of Smollett
  • Foxx is “the first and only prosecutor in the country to make felony case-level data available to the public,” the state’s attorney office website says. “The open data portal provides unprecedented access and transparency into the work of a prosecutor’s office. Her goal is to make the Cook County the most transparent prosecutor’s office in the country.”
  • She is from Chicago and was reared in the Cabrini-Green housing project on the north side of Chicago.
  • Foxx received her undergraduate and law degree from Southern Illinois University. She is a member of the board of trustees of Adler University.
  • Foxx also serves on the board of Free Spirit Media, where she also served as board president. Previously, she served as board chair of Planned Parenthood of Illinois and president of the National Black Prosecutors Association-Chicago Chapter. 
  • Foxx has been married to Kelley Foxx since 2001 and together they have two daughters.
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019 file photo, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks at a news conference in Chicago. Foxx on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, defended the decision by her staff to drop charges that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack in January. Foxx recused herself before Smollett was charged last month because she had discussed the case with a Smollett family member. ((AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File))