Texarkana, TX 67° Fri H 93° L 77° Sat H 92° L 76° Sun H 89° L 68° Weather Sponsored By:

Thanks to Kim Foxx, the Smollett story will not die

Thanks to Kim Foxx, the Smollett story will not die

June 6th, 2019 by Eric Zorn/Tribune News Service in Opinion Columns

CHICAGO—Starting March 27, the day after the office of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx abruptly and mysteriously dropped charges against TV actor Jussie Smollett, more than 180 columns, editorials and stories touching on the case have appeared in the Tribune, Sun-Times and Daily Herald.

That's about 175 more appearances in print than readers would have seen if prosecutors had simply required Smollett to admit wrongdoing in exchange for leniency on felony charges that he staged a hate crime against himself by hiring two acquaintances to pretend to attack him Jan. 29 while yelling racist, homophobic slurs and a pro-Trump slogan.

Instead, of course, controversy flared when Smollett rushed to the microphones in the courthouse lobby to proclaim his innocence. Public officials and pundits led the general call for an explanation from prosecutors.

If the case was strong that Smollett lied to police and prompted the expenditure of significant investigatory resources, as Foxx said initially, why did she let him walk without so much as a "my bad"?

And if the case had weaknesses, as Foxx later hinted, what were those weaknesses?

Simple questions, really. And Foxx's failure to answer them has prolonged this story in numerous ways, prompting more than 2,000 media mentions worldwide after March 27, according to the Nexis database.

In the wake of the controversy and anger, the city filed a civil suit against Smollett to recover the costs of investigating his alleged hoax. Foxx herself has asked the Cook County inspector general to look into how her office handled the case. And former state appellate Judge Sheila O'Brien is in court doggedly pushing for a special prosecutor to take over.

Foxx's document dump Friday evening of more than 2,000 pages of related emails and text messages, an apparent belated effort at damage control, has only made things worse.

These internal documents showed that Foxx didn't "want to waste any capital on a celebrity case" that might be a "distraction," and stepped back from direct oversight of the case because of rumors that she was related to Smollett.

They showed that prosecutors under Foxx were negotiating with Smollett's lawyers about the language to be used in court when charges were dropped so as not to leave the impression that the resolution of the case was a "deal between attorneys, which would indicate guilt," as Risa Lanier, chief of the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau wrote.

Smollett did  forfeit his cash bond of $10,000—though his lawyers said it wasn't a fine but a contribution by a "dedicated citizen"—and he spent two days volunteering at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters in what was later described as community service.

Imagine that. A month before the stunning announcement in court that caught the mayor, the police chief and everyone in the media by surprise, police reports show a top Foxx deputy predicted the outcome while calling a halt to further investigation in the case.

"The public's trust is paramount to our work," said Foxx in a statement released with the documents Friday. "I am sorry that, despite the best intentions, our efforts were less than what was required of the moment."

Sorry is a good start. But when questions are still being raised faster than she's answering them more than two months after this PR pratfall, she hasn't earned the right to use the word "transparency" or to ask for the public's trust.

Her failure to sit down with the media and answer every question honestly and at length and to wait instead for internal investigations to conclude has prolonged and thus deepened the controversy over a story that should now be history.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com