Foxx, Cook County Prosecutors Could Face Possible Sanctions for Allegedly Misleading Public About Smollett Case
Legal ethics attorney Trisha Rich spoke with the Cook County Record about possible repercussions for Kim Foxx, the State's Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, related to her handling of a case against actor Jussie Smollett. Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago in January 2019, but further investigation led Foxx's office to initiate a criminal case against him, alleging he staged the incident. However, Foxx abruptly dropped the charges. The confusion over this move eventually led to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the matter and determine whether charges should be filed anew against Smollett. New charges were filed, and Smollett was convicted on five counts of disorderly conduct in early December.
Amid the conviction, questions remained about how Foxx's office handled the initial investigation. Special prosecutor Dan Webb's report, released a few days after the verdict, concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to accuse Foxx or anyone in her office of criminal conduct; however, it did conclude that Foxx and her office both abused prosecutorial discretion in striking a deal with Smollett and issued multiple false, deceptive and misleading statements about the case. Webb also said he would ask the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) to look into the matter. Ms. Rich said the ARDC could take up the case, given its high profile, but added the political nature of the State's Attorney office and discretion afforded to prosecutors in criminal matters complicates the situation. Nevertheless, because the matter involves deception, the commission could be more likely to launch a formal inquiry. Ms. Rich cited an Illinois Supreme Court Rule classifying misrepresentation as professional misconduct when discussing the potential implications of an ARDC investigation.
"There are few things that the ARDC takes more seriously than dishonesty," she noted. "...[Illinois Supreme Court Rule 8.4c is] one of our most important rules."