Eric Zorn: What's next for actor Jussie Smollett and prosecutor Kim Foxx?
Now what for Jussie Smollett?
A Cook County jury found Jussie Smollett guilty on five out of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for staging a hate-crime attack against himself in late January 2019.
The formal response from Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, whose office had tried to give Smollett a pass but was overruled by a special prosecutor, sounded grudging: "The jury has spoken. While this case has garnered a lot of attention, we hope as a county we can move forward. At the Cook County State's Attorney's Office we will continue to focus on the important work of this office, prioritizing and prosecuting violent crime."
The CWB Chicago site wasted no time in pointing out that for all of Foxx's preening about her priorities, her office went hammer and tongs after two of the men arrested in July 2019 for tagging Cloud Gate (the tourist attraction informally known as "The Bean") in Millennium Park.
That story simply underscores what an embarrassment the Smollett case has been for Foxx. Yes, she rather handily won re-election last year. But I no longer like her chances for higher office, as I once did.
I also don't like Smollett's chances for a career revival. His name seems forever destined to be a punchline, so to speak, and his star turns limited to appearances on reality shows.
Meanwhile, the special prosecutor in the Smollett case, Dan Webb, filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court asking for the public release of his August 2020 report on the conduct of Foxx's office. That report has been kept under seal due to rules that generally keep grand jury proceedings secret, but Webb's motion argues:
"The public release of the (Office of Special Prosecutor's) summary report is … in accordance with this court's June 21, 2019 order, which stated that one of the reasons it was necessary to appoint a special prosecutor was to 'restore the public's confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.'"
I'm very eager to learn all that Webb uncovered that might better explain Foxx's weird behavior. We'll never be able to say "case closed" until we read that report.
News & Views
News: Republicans launch petition drive against Chicago Public Schools gender-inclusive "boys+ and girls+" bathroom policy.
View: This is parental indignation in search of a problem. Transgender and non-binary identities are real things, and people should use the restrooms where they feel most comfortable -- as they have been doing all along.
News: Armed Private Security Officers Could Start Patrolling Bucktown This Week
As I wrote last week, certain types of crime feel as though they are now rampant in the city -- carjackings and muggings in particular, but also catalytic converter thefts. And I can easily see this Bucktown initiative spreading to other areas as neighbors pool their resources to provide a visible layer of security that might at least inspire malefactors to move on to less protected streets where residents may not have the means to fund extra policing.
This pilot program is a sign that residents are running out of patience, and in the end seems likely to increase the safety gap between those with means those without.
News: Far-right Republican gubernatorial hopeful state Sen. Darren Bailey picks a fill-in radio host, also from the far right, as his running mate.
View: Stephanie Trussell of Lisle, a Black former Donald Trump-hating conservative who has likened Planned Parenthood to the Ku Klux Klan and promoted COVID vaccine resistance, is a fittingly unusual running mate for the daffy Bailey, a white family farmer from downstate Xenia who was tossed from a legislative session in May 2020 for refusing to wear a protective face covering.
At one point in my career -- as late as 2015! -- I would have enjoyed the prospect of writing about a goofball extremist running for high office, but my faith in the electorate was so shattered by Trump's elevation to the White House that these candidacies now fill me with dread.
News: Aldermen Back $2.9 Million Settlement With Anjanette Young, Innocent Social Worker Handcuffed Naked in Botched Chicago Police Raid
View: What happened to Anjanette Young was horrible, disgusting, humiliating and cruel. The settlement seems high to me given that she suffered no physical injuries -- the city paid just $2 million to the family of a pedestrian struck and killed in 2018 by a vehicle being chased by Chicago Police because an officer smelled marijuana in the car -- but I can't find a chart online that would allow a quick comparisons of wrongs suffered and settlements paid over the years.
The mayor did not settle this case for an outrageous amount of taxpayer money because the city was legally exposed to a potentially high judgment. She used taxpayer money to jump-start her reelection campaign…. Men who served years in prison after being wrongfully convicted do not receive the kind of money that Young received for the humiliation she endured -- standing naked for 16 seconds covered with nothing and then for 10 more minutes handcuffed, with an open blanket draped over her while the officers secured the home.… That settlement should have been in the range of $50,000.
News: Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz, a physician, slams the Philadelphia Inquirer's decision not to refer to him as "Dr. Oz" in campaign coverage.
View: I side with the Inky on this, as I've long been a crank when it comes to honorary titles. As I wrote last year when people were debating whether to call First Lady Jill Biden "Dr. Biden" to recognize her PhD in education, the use of professional titles outside of the professional context isn't fraudulent, but it is presumptuous and potentially misleading, and it cuts against the egalitarian American spirit.
Land of Linkin'
My late parents' Colonial home will be torn down. It's like dealing with a third death. The great Blair Kamin returns to the pages of the Tribune: "The house served as an anchor -- a bastion of continuity in a tumultuous, ever-shifting world….As I packed treasures like my mother's reddish-pink English castle china, the late-afternoon light bounced off the pond and danced on the ceilings of the hauntingly empty rooms. The wind shook the trees that had sheltered the house for so long. Their leaves fell quickly, like tears. Later, as if to offer comfort, the pair of swans materialized on the pond, where my sister and I had scattered our parents' ashes -- my mother's, just four months before."
One of the funniest stories I've read in a long time was Taylor Lorenz' New York Times feature on the "Birds Aren't Real" mock conspiracy theory. "In a post-truth world dominated by online conspiracy theories, young people have coalesced around the effort to thumb their nose at, fight and poke fun at misinformation. It's Gen Z's attempt to upend the rabbit hole with absurdism."
I don't hesitate when asked what the best Christmas song is. Out of many worthy and beloved contenders, the lyrically magnificent and musically exuberant "Chariots," written in the mid 1990s by British folk musician John Kirkpatrick, simply can't be beat.
The last verse is my favorite:
"As a candle can conquer the demons of darkness
"As a flame can keep frost from the deepest of cold
"So a song can give hope in the depths of all danger
"And a line of pure melody soar in your soul.
"So sing your songs well and sing your songs sweetly
"And swear that your singing it never shall cease
"So the clatter of battle and drums of disaster
"Be drowned in the sound of the pipes of peace."
• Eric Zorn was a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Tribune for 40 years. These items are excerpted from his daily newsletter "The Picayune Sentinel." To view the items in full and read about other topics, go to https://ericzorn.substack.com/.