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Smollett case could undermine prosecutor's reform efforts WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio



Chicago's top prosecutor was heavily criticized for having withdrawn from the case against Jussie Smollett and then complaining in a text to a subordinate that her office had overwhelmed the "Empire" actor.

But anyone who has followed Kim Foxx's work In the texts, he recognized the same reforms she has been implementing for years: Exaggerate non-violent crimes and, wherever possible, offer alternatives for convicting a suspect in court.

"Just because we can sue for something does not mean we should mean something," Foxx said in a text to her chief prosecutor in Cook County State on March 8, citing the 1

6 offenses of disorderly behavior filed against Smollett, who was accused of orchestrating a racist, anti-gay attack himself. "We do not want to be."

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The decision to dismiss the indictment against Smollett may have followed Foxx's reform agenda, but led to an outburst of personal threats. According to her Chief of Staff, Jennifer Ballard Croft, the threat messages came in the form of emails and phone calls, but refused to provide additional details about the specific threats.

Ballard Croft said on Monday the Chicago Sun-Times that this was the case In addition to the threats to Foxx's personal security, several threats had "a racially-charged language."

The rage over March's decision to drop all charges against Smollett could be Foxx's & # 39; Undermined efforts to overtake the second largest prosecutor in the United States. For decades, this has been seen as too aggressive and dependent on abusive police practices.

"It gives it a public credibility problem that is still not resolved," said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Foxx, who grew up in poverty in a notorious, criminal Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago, became the first black woman to be elected Attorney for the State of Cook County at the end of 2016. Victory on a reform platform was largely driven by anger, that the prosecutor she expelled had waited a year to sue a police officer for the deadly shootings of black teenager Laquan McDonald. The decision of her office to drop the charges against Smollett. Any discovery that she had exerted undue pressure on her staff could jeopardize her prospects for a second term and interrupt her reforms before they are fully accepted. Those who had long opposed the agenda she set at the beginning of her term would have.

This program included instructions for approximately 800 prosecutors supervised by them to abandon previous practices, to always make the highest possible charges, and to be more discriminating and differentiated in deciding when to indict someone with a crime. Potential employers, she said in a February interview, rarely tell whether the crime was for shoplifting or murder.

"The burden of convicting the crime is very real and distressing, even if it is the lowest crime," said Foxx The Appeal Podcast in February.

This thinking led to one of their most controversial reforms – a new policy of charging suspects charged with theft in the retail sector with a crime only if the value of the stolen items is more than three times the $ 300 Threshold in previous years. She said politics had allowed her office to raise more money for gun crime.

Another campaign in which she participated was to change the system of short-term notes to ensure that suspects are not detained solely because they are too poor to pay. Before this change in 2017, up to 300 people were jailed daily for not being able to borrow US $ 1,000 or less, which contributed to overcrowding in the county jail.

It also deviated from a policy that forced people to hinder driving in licenses that were simply suspended for non-payment of tickets. The old policy, she explained, influenced the poor inappropriately, and essentially made the prosecutor's debt collector.

One of the sharpest critics was the Chicago Police Department President Kevin Graham, who called on Foxx to resign this month. He said dealing with the Smollett case was just another example of how her office had left someone too light-headed.

"We need a prosecutor who charges when he commits a crime," he said.

After Foxx was more vulnerable after the Smollett case, dozens of police chiefs from communities in Cook County, but outside Chicago, intensified the reforms they did not like at all.

They complain that Foxx, with little consultation, has made changes to often confused, contradictory clues about who should be arrested or not. Their biggest criticism is the prosecution's decision not to sue so many crimes, and sometimes even the prosecution of non-violent crimes, including certain retail theft and possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"A strategy to combat non-violent crime in Cook County is to decriminalize or ignore it," said Duane Mellema, president of the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police, earlier this month in a letter to Foxx most enthusiastic Followers have stood by her.

"We are feeling well overall with their reforms," ​​said Kristi Sanford, a spokeswoman for The People's Lobby, a Chicago-based activist group working to reform the criminal justice system. "She has a great job because her predecessors were all intent on throwing the book at people."

Sanford dismisses the criticisms of Foxx's reforms as "opportunistic" attacks by people who have consistently spoken out against change for years. She said Foxx's dealings with the Smollett case should not be included in calculations about her performance.

"It's a non-issue," said Sanford. "This is not a situation that causes us to question its willingness to reform."

Simpson said the Smollett case was Foxx's biggest misconception since he was elected. He doubted, however, that their support base was in jeopardy among reformers and African-Americans. Whether her followers leave her before she seeks a second term will depend on her completing further reforms.

"If she can, I think she will be fine," he said.


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