CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago area’s top prosecutor will not seek reelection after two terms of intense scrutiny of her efforts to overhaul criminal prosecutions and her approach to high-profile cases, including charges against actor Jussie Smollett for staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself.
Kim Foxx announced Tuesday that she will not seek a third term as Cook County state’s attorney next year, telling a City Club of Chicago meeting that she will leave in November 2024 “with my head held high” after eight years prosecuting crime in her hometown.
“I leave now with my head held high, with my heart full, knowing that better days are ahead,” Foxx said. “And it has been my honor and my privilege on behalf of project kids across this city.”
2016: First Black woman to be Cook County State’s Attorney
Foxx, who was raised in Chicago public housing, first ran for the office in 2016 in a race dominated by questions about then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s handling of a Chicago police officer’s killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. Foxx became the first Black woman to hold the job, joining a wave of big-city prosecutors elected on promises to overhaul the criminal justice system, including more accountability for police and a willingness to forgo prosecutions of minor offenses.
Foxx noted Tuesday that many of those prosecutors have faced intense criticism in their own communities, facing recall elections, censure and other consequences. But she gave a spirited defense of the approach, highlighting people whose wrongful convictions have been overturned during her tenure.
“These are not just policy differentials,” Foxx said. “These are people. These are not talking points for the left and the right.”
2019: R. Kelly, Jessie Smollett, & the Chicago Police Department
Foxx in 2019 was the first prosecutor to file new charges against singer R. Kelly a decade after his acquittal on child pornography charges in 2008. But she dropped the sex-abuse charges in January after both federal prosecutors in Chicago and New York secured convictions against the disgraced R&B star.
She prioritized vacating convictions of people framed or falsely accused of drug crimes by corrupt police officers and expunging low-level marijuana convictions once possession of cannabis became legal in Illinois. She also is among the largest supporters of Illinois Democrats’ efforts to end cash bail, which still awaits a state Supreme Court decision.
Foxx’s approach sometimes created conflict with other elected officials, including Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and law enforcement who complained that her office hurt public safety. Foxx again rejected that accusation Tuesday, saying it was “disingenuous, at best, and a lie.”
Her handling of the case against Smollett triggered the harshest criticism of Foxx’s tenure.
Smollett, who is Black and gay, claimed in January 2019 that he had been attacked by two men shouting racial and homophobic slurs. At the time, Smollett was a popular cast member of the hit show “Empire.” Foxx’s office first prosecuted Smollett before dropping the charges weeks later, and a review later found that Foxx and others in her office made multiple false statements about the case.
Smollett is appealing his 2022 conviction for lying to police and was released from the Cook County jail in March as that effort continues.
Amid the backlash, Foxx still handily won reelection in 2020 as the area’s top prosecutor, overcoming a well-financed primary challenge on the way to a second term. But Foxx hasn’t forgotten the unrelenting scrutiny the case inspired, devoting a significant portion of her announcement Tuesday to mockingly rebuffing it as a “class 4 nonviolent felony for a crime he committed on himself” and comparing the case to weightier issues that prosecutors handled during her tenure.
“It has never been lost on me that these are not human interest stories; these are indictments of a system,” she said, referring to expunged cases following police misconduct. “But you want to ask me about Jussie.”
2023: Will not seek a third term
The Cook County State’s Attorney announced she will not seek re-election in 2024.
“While I will not be seeking a third term, it doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere. The good, hard work we began in 2016 will continue through the end of my term in 2024,” Foxx noted in an email to her staff on Tuesday.