Foxx's Smollett 'Kangaroo Prosecution' Statements 'Unusual,' May Trigger Hard Look From Ethics Regulators
Legal ethics attorney Trisha Rich spoke with the Cook County Record about Cook County, Illinois, State's Attorney Kim Foxx's comments after the sentencing of actor Jussie Smollett and how they could potentially represent breaches of legal ethics.
Smollett was found guilty in December 2021 of making false statements to police during the 2019 investigation into his claims of being attacked by racist and homophobic individuals. Foxx had unexpectedly dropped all charges against the actor in 2019, which raised concerns from some of her colleagues in the state's attorney office. Cook County Judge Michael Toomin ended up appointing former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to serve as a special prosecutor for the matter as well as investigate Foxx's handling of the case. Following Smollett's conviction, Webb release his report, which stated that Foxx and her office abused their discretion as prosecutors and made misleading statements to the pubic but ultimately concluded there was not evidence to accuse them of criminal conduct.
Foxx called the report "inaccurate" and "deeply flawed" when it was released. After Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett to 150 days in jail, she followed up by saying Linn and Toomin presided over a "kangaroo prosecution" whose goal was to punish and attack her as a Black prosecutor. Ms. Rich said those statements could prompt scrutiny from legal profession regulators. Specifically, she cited Illinois Supreme Court Rule 8.2, which forbids lawyers in Illinois from making false statements about judges. She added that although attorneys are rarely disciplined under Rule 8.2, Foxx's comments were "certainly unusual."
"It is a little surprising to see a prosecutor speak out in that way," she said.