By Erick Johnson
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx officially announced her re-election bid Tuesday, November 19 with her first television campaign advertisement that aims to polish her image after a tough year in the spotlight.
One day after announcing her run, Empire Actor Jussie Smollett filed a 49-page counter lawsuit, charging several Chicago police officers with multiple prosecutions in a case that won’t go away as it threatens to destroy Foxx’s legal career. With the primary several months away, can she win a second term with a tarnished image?
Her two-minute video shows Foxx driving through her childhood neighborhood at Larrabee and Division. That’s where she grew up in the infamous Cabrini Green public housing projects. She says she “had to be tough” to survive her childhood experience.
The video also includes a brief shot of Foxx at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters, where she drew large support from Black leaders after her office received heavy criticism for dropping charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett.
“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that, “Foxx said in the ad. “I’m making changes in my office to make sure we do better. That’s what reform is about.”
Foxx also takes a swing at President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, which has come under heavy criticism after a year of mass shootings in cities across the country.
“Every day my office is under attack, from a president who uses our city as a punching bag, Foxx said. “The NRA, hell bent on letting guns flood our streets. And the FOP, clinging to old ways. They’ll do anything to undercut progress, including attacking me personally over the Jussie Smollett case.”
In the Black community, Foxx is under pressure from the family of Jemel Roberson, a security guard who was fatally shot by a Midlothian police officer in 2018 in a bar in south suburban Robbins. He was trying to subdue a man when that officer opened fire on him. The Cook County Medical Examiner found Roberson was shot multiple times in the back and right side.
Illinois State Police investigated the police-involved shooting, but the decision to press charges against the Midlothian police officer rests with Foxx. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Roberson family, said they were told the state’s attorney’s office is still doing interviews.
“Ms. Foxx campaigned on police accountability. She has presented herself as an advocate of a community tired of police brutality, so we are hopeful she will make good on that promise,” Merritt said.
On November 11, Roberson’s family gathered at Millennium Park, where they called on Foxx to take action and prosecute the police officer who killed Roberson. Earlier this year, Reverend Marshall Hatch and Reverend Ira Acree called on Foxx to bring charges against the Midlothian police officer. However, Roberson’s family and friends have been the most vocal activists.
“We want answers from Kim Foxx. We want to be updated all the time. We want this cop locked up,” family friend Tarsha Williams said during the rally at Millenium Park.
“This year has been hard on both of us and it will continue to be hard,” said his nephew, Jawil Green.
The Roberson case may be a political tightrope for Foxx, who must appeal to suburban white voters while she fights to keep support among Blacks in Cook County.
Then there is the Roosevelt Myles case.
In February, Foxx’s office ask Judge Dennis Porter to block the appeal of the wrongfully-convicted Black man who spent 27 years in jail after he was framed for a murder that occurred on the West Side in 1992.
Myles waited 19 years for a hearing, but a Cook County judge agreed with Foxx’s office, saying that Myles’ claims had no merit.
Foxx’s decision may come back to haunt her as an emergency appeal makes its way through an appellate court and a story about Myles is set to air on the Discovery Channel near the Democratic Primary election March 17.
Foxx also drew criticism after her office failed to push for a stiff punishment for the killer of Derrion Albert, a 16-year old Black honors student at Fenger High School who was caught in the middle of a gang fight in 2009. Derrion’s killer, “D.J.” was convicted as a juvenile and was sentenced to 30 years as an adult. However, in a special case called the Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile prosecution or EJJ, that sentence would be stayed and not enforced unless he was convicted of a new felony after being released from juvenile custody.
The Smollett case could be the most damaging to Foxx’s re-election hopes as she faces Democratic opponents Bill Conway and Donna More.
Smollett was accused of staging an anti-gay attack in January in the Streeterville neighborhood. He was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct in March.
Foxx has since been accused of giving Smollett special treatment. Foxx recused herself from the case, but text messages showed that Foxx continued weighing in on the case in conversations with her deputy after announcing that she had recused herself from the investigation due to public misperceptions that she had personal relationships with members of the Smollett family. Later, Foxx tried to explain that she had not recused herself “in the legal sense.”
In August, former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb was appointed to be the special prosecutor who investigates why Foxx dropped all the charges against Smollett. A judge recently allowed a lawsuit seeking $130,000 in police costs against Smollett to go forward.
The Smollett case has also inflamed racial tensions in Chicago, where white nationalists and the Chicago police labor union, the Fraternal Order of Police, called for Foxx’s resignation.
Black leaders, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, have stood behind Foxx, the state’s first Black female State’s Attorney who ousted her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, in 2016. Alvarez drew widespread protests in 2016 after she waited 13 months to charge Jason Van Dyke with first degree murder after he shot 17-year old Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Foxx campaigned as a reformer, but the Smollett case has raised doubts as to whether she is fulfilling her promise.
While Foxx may get Chicago’s powerful Black vote, there is concern whether she will have strong support in Chicago’s outlying predominately white, affluent suburbs, where her opponents will seek to campaign.