Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx‘s office has already acknowledged that when she said she was recusing herself from the Jussie Smollett case, she didn’t mean it in the “legal sense.” Now that Foxx’s text messages related to the case have been released, it doesn’t look like she meant it in any sense at all.
On March 8, well after the case was underway, Foxx weighed in on her office’s handling of the case. She even referred to being “recused,” appearing to know that her comments were pushing the limits of the word.
“Sooo……I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases…16 counts on a class 4 becomes exhibit A,” she said in a text viewed by Law&Crime. Comparing Smollett’s case to her office’s handling of the R. Kelly case, she said, “Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16.”
Foxx then went further, giving her thoughts on how Smollett’s case should be handled.
“On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally,” she said. “Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
This is a joke. Recusing yourself from a case means that you do not get involved. At all. Technically, Foxx’s office should have had nothing to do with the case at all, and the judge should have appointed a special prosecutor to step in and take over. That’s what would have happened if Foxx had really recused herself. I was disgusted when I read her office’s claim that when they mentioned recusal, “it was a colloquial use of the term rather than in its legal sense.”
That lame excuse may explain why Foxx’s office remained in control of the case, but it still doesn’t account for Foxx’s behavior. Even with her twisted version of recusal–where she put her first assistant Joseph Magats in charge–Foxx should have kept out of anything having to do with Smollett. Instead, she volunteered her thoughts on the matter.
I don’t care that she used the word “generally” when discussing how her office should be handling cases; it was clear what she was trying to say.
Recall, Foxx’s lack of recusal became an issue after other text messages of hers went public. Those messages showed that she had been in touch with Smollett’s old defense attorney, who just so happened to be Michelle Obama‘s former chief of staff. Given the appearance of proper impropriety, recusal was the right move. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one that Foxx appears to have made.
Ronn Blitzer is the Senior Legal Editor of Law&Crime and a former New York City Prosecutor. Follow him on Twitter @RonnBlitzer.
[Image via Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.