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Richard Boykin mulls State’s Attorney bid

Photo caption: Kim Foxx (left) and Richard Boykin

Former Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin is considering replacing Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who on Tuesday, April 25 announced at the City Club of Chicago she will not seek a third term as Cook County’s first Black female top prosecutor.

During a telephone interview with the Crusader early Wednesday, Boykin said “I’ve been talking to a lot of people about running. I got a lot of encouraging comments from people who said I should run. It’s an important decision and the people of Cook County deserve to be safe. I’m confident I’ll make the right decision.”

An attorney in Oak Park, Boykin served as Cook County District 1 Commissioner before losing reelection to Brandon Johnson in a heated campaign in 2018. In

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Richard Boykin

2020, Boykin ran to replace retired Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown but lost to Iris Martinez in the Democratic Primary. Last year, he ran to unseat Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle but lost in the Democratic Primary.

Relations between Boykin and Johnson remained frosty after Preckwinkle backed Johnson during the 2018 District 1 Commissioner race. With Johnson now the mayor-elect of Chicago, questions remain whether Boykin will be a candidate who can rise above the past and work with Johnson to deal with Chicago’s crime problem. Foxx at times during her term had a strained relationship with Mayor Lori Lightfoot. And there are also questions as to whether Boykin is progressive enough to continue Foxx’s agenda to reform Cook County’s criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, Black leaders are reacting to this week’s stunning announcement that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx won’t seek reelection after two terms in office, terms that saw unprecedented criminal justice reforms that clashed with police union leaders and critics who tried but failed to unseat her as the county’s first Black female prosecutor.

As was the case during her six years in office, on Tuesday, April 25, Foxx remained defiant as a progressive reformer, blasting critics and touting her accomplishments during a fiery speech at a sold-out event for the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano’s Banquets.

But the fiery, upbeat announcement also had an underlying somber tone for Blacks who supported Foxx as she enacted reforms and endured years of pushback from critics, police superintendents, Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago’s establishment media. With the election less than a year away, Blacks were ready to back her again for another term.

Foxx’s mentor Preckwinkle was there when her protégé made the announcement. They hugged after Foxx announced the news.

Foxx said “When I became State’s Attorney, I knew that I had a mission and agenda that I knew I wanted to achieve, which was fairness, justice and equity, and that kids who lived in neighborhoods just like mine could live to see another day, and not just live, but they could be lawyers and policymakers in the city that they call home,” Foxx said. “And I feel that I have done that.”

It’s uncertain what specific incident or event led Foxx to not seek another term. Now after hundreds of wrongful convictions thrown out and cash bail reforms instituted, the future of Cook County’s troubled criminal justice system remains uncertain as potential candidates seek to roll back Foxx’s reforms and return Chicago to what she often called the “False Confession Capital of America.”

Foxx said she informed Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson of her decision Monday, April 25 where she reportedly said his role will be difficult as a Black man.

Minutes after her announcement, Johnson in a statement praised Foxx for “overturning nearly 200 wrongful convictions, expunging more than 15,000 cannabis crimes and bringing equity to a criminal justice system that has long disenfranchised people and communities of color.

“She has led her office with dignity and civility, and as a colleague at the county level, I am grateful for the work that she has accomplished in her two terms. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Mayor Lightfoot in her tweeted statement said, “I commend and thank Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx for stepping up and serving our City and County through a particularly tough moment in history.

“I know what it’s like being a Black woman in leadership and constantly being judged and evaluated through a different set of standards. I wish SA Foxx and her family the best as she embarks on a new chapter.”

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Kim Foxx

During Foxx’s years as Cook County’s top prosecutor she was often accused of being soft on crime and prosecutors quit under her leadership. But she inherited an office and criminal justice system that for decades disproportionally and negatively impacted Cook County’s Black residents.

When Foxx took office, she implemented unprecedented reforms not seen under her predecessors. Black and Latino men and women who were tortured and wrongfully convicted under disgraced Officers Jon Burge and Reynaldo Guevara were exonerated after spending decades in jail.

Amid these accomplishments, Foxx’s office had its shortcomings when it came to wrongful convictions. Her office lagged in prosecuting post-conviction cases that involved wrongful convictions caused by other less high-profile Chicago detectives, particular Anthony Wojcik, who retired in 2017 after he was recommended for termination for falsifying police reports in the Laquan McDonald case.

The Crusader published dozens of stories on one of Wojcik’s victims, Roosevelt Myles, exonerated last year though Foxx’s office fought his post-conviction case in court. Myles had battled 22 years for an evidentiary hearing.

In 2019, Foxx raised the threshold to prosecute shoplifters. Retail theft remained a misdemeanor unless the value of the stolen item exceeded $1,000 or the shoplifter had 10 prior felony convictions. Before Foxx enacted that policy, shoplifters who stole $300 were prosecuted as were those with just one felony conviction on their record.

In 2017, during her first year in office, Foxx’s office stopped prosecuting people driving with suspended licenses. Many defendants could not afford to pay to get their licenses back, leaving Foxx’s office staff feeling like “glorified bill collectors.”

Still, Foxx was viewed as soft on crime as incidents of carjackings, thefts and robberies spilled into neighborhoods on the North Side. Crime and shoplifting increased on the Mag Mile and retailers and luxury shops like Cartier closed.

In the past two years, her office has clashed with Mayor Lightfoot, who along with Superintendent Brown, openly criticized Foxx for not bringing charges against individuals arrested and suspected of committing crimes. Foxx would challenge police officers to obtain more evidence and sometimes challenged them about being too quick to arrest individuals.

Foxx blasted critics for making the Jussie Smollett case a reason for calling for her resignation. In January 2019, Smollett told police he was the victim of a homophobic attack that left him bruised and with a noose around his neck. The case made national headlines. Weeks after the alleged attack, police said Smollett’s story was false and charged him with a false police report. Foxx recused herself from the case. Her office days later dropped charges against Smollett, saying he had volunteered “in the community” and would give $10,000 to the city by forfeiting his bond.

After a grand jury renewed criminal charges against Smollett, the case was reinstated and tried by a special prosecutor. In 2021, Smollett was convicted of five felony counts of disorderly conduct. Smollett was ordered to pay the city $120,000 and a $25,000 fine. He was sentenced in March 2022 to 150 days in county jail, but he served less than a week after his attorneys persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court to release him while they appeal the case.

Critics and the media used the case to attack Foxx during her re-election campaign. She was accused of embarrassing Chicago before the nation and the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board endorsed her unsuccessful opponent Bill Conway in the 2020 Democratic Primary.

When Foxx was accused of slapping her husband last year during a highly publicized incident at her home in Flossmoor, the media pounced. Some television stations and news outlets reported on the incident with sensational details they obtained through police reports filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The incident added stress and bad publicity for Foxx.

In August 2019, white supremacists and nationalists attended a rally in Chicago, calling for Foxx’s resignation from the Smollett debacle. Foxx was reelected anyway in the 2020 primary. She was vindicated on the strength of the Black vote, capturing the city’s 18 Black wards in convincing fashion.

But the attacks from the Smollett case still anger Foxx today.

“Probably when I leave this earth, my epitaph will mention Jussie Smollett,” Foxx said. “And it makes me mad.”

During her speech, Foxx defended her record, noting homicides and violent crimes fell in her first three years in office in 2017, 2018, and 2019. During the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Chicago and cities across the country saw a spike in violent crimes.

Foxx was born and raised in the Cabrini Green housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side. She graduated from Southern Illinois University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science and a J.D. from the SIU School of Law.

She served as an Assistant State’s Attorney for 12 years. Prior to being elected State’s Attorney, she served as Chief of Staff for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, where she helped address racial disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Foxx was elected in 2016 after defeating incumbent Anita Alvarez, who took 13 months to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder after he shot teenager McDonald 16 times in 2014.

During her speech, Foxx said when she took office as a Black woman from Cabrini-Green, her “presence was disruptive.”

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