Handling of Smollett case still an issue in Cook County state's attorney race

  • Democrat Kim Foxx, left, and Republican Patrick O'Brien are running for Cook County State's Attorney on Nov. 3.

    Democrat Kim Foxx, left, and Republican Patrick O'Brien are running for Cook County State's Attorney on Nov. 3.

Updated 10/23/2020 12:34 PM

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's handling of the Jussie Smollett case dominated the Democratic primary earlier this year and it remains a point of contention between the Democratic incumbent and her Republican challenger Patrick O'Brien.

During a joint appearance before the Daily Herald Editorial Board, the candidates addressed the case, which has dogged the office of the state's attorney since the former "Empire" actor claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on Jan. 29, 2019. Chicago police have disputed those claims.


Less than a month after the alleged attack, Smollett was charged with filing a false report. On March 26, 2019, prosecutors dropped the charges with no explanation. Cook County Judge Michael Toomin named former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb special prosecutor and ordered him to look into why.

In February 2020, a Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Smollett for making false police reports. In August, Webb released a report in which he indicated no evidence "that would support any criminal charges against State's Attorney Foxx or anyone working at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office."

However, the report referenced "substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures" by the office "in prosecuting and resolving the initial Smollett case." Webb further found the office "breached its obligations of honesty and transparency by making false and/or misleading statements to the public regarding the nature and reasons for the dismissal of the initial Smollett case."

"I've said from the beginning we could have handled that case better," said Foxx, who acknowledged her office should have been more transparent about the review and handling of the case. "We have in the wake of (the Smollett case) changed some of our practices so we can be more transparent to the public. I believe that's what is required."

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O'Brien questioned Foxx's judgment and accused her of granting "a political favor to Jussie Smollett, something no one else got."

"No one is above the law," he said.

For more election coverage and help filling out your ballot, visit dailyherald.com/election.

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