The Race for Cook County State’s Attorney

By Marianna Koonce

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is up against Republican nominee Patrick ‘Pat’ O’Brien in the general election this November. Foxx, the Democratic incumbent, hopes to maintain her position while O’Brien looks to claim it. The State’s Attorney’s office is in charge of prosecuting crimes committed in Cook County. A few of her key issues include the legalization of cannabis nationally, removing marijuana convictions and deemphasizing the incarceration of non-violent criminals.

Foxx is the first African-American woman to lead this office, taking her position on Dec 1, 2016. While Foxx’s job is to handle these local crimes, she’s been criticized in the past for how she decided to go about them. Take for example “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s case in which he allegedly staged a racist, homophobic attack on himself.

Police determined the hate crime was an orchestrated publicity stunt. Smollett has repeatedly denied the case was orchestrated. In March 2019, Foxx’s office suddenly decided to drop all 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct against the actor.

People are also calling on Foxx for a stronger witness protection program. This means witnesses to crimes can comfortably come forward without fearing that they’ll be retaliated against. A stronger program will provide these witnesses with resources such as financial help to cover the cost of relocation if need be.

Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St John Bible Church delivered a letter to Foxx’s office calling on a stronger program following the death of Elijah Sims, a teenager who was killed in 2016 in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. There have yet to be any arrests made in connection with his death. Witnesses of the killing are too afraid to come forward, according to Acree. Foxx hasn’t responded to Acree’s program letter.

Nevertheless, Foxx’s re-election in November looks promising considering the fact that Cook County has a large Democratic population. After winning the Democratic primary back in March, she earned 50.5 percent of votes countywide.

Republican nominee Pat O’ brien is a former Assistant Illinois Attorney General and Assistant Cook County State’s attorney. He has over forty years of practice and has presided over civil and criminal cases. Pressing issues that O’Brien is focusing on include targeting gangs, guns and drugs, recommending sentences for convictions that consider the person’s past and present record, educating and connecting with the community by sending Assistant State’s Attorneys throughout Cook County to visit schools (beginning with grade schools) and closely monitoring defendants who are awaiting trial while on bond or electronic monitoring to ensure their compliance with bond conditions. He wants to increase those conditions if violations occur and if it’s appropriate.

O’Brien believes “the State’s Attorney’s Office needs to be apolitical because people, even other elected officials, may have an agenda which is at odds with the State’s Attorney’s oath to enforce the Illinois criminal statutes. The State’s Attorney is the sole County Official with the duty to prosecute people who break the law. A prosecutor’s decisions shaped by a social, economic, or political agenda, and not the law, corrupts the integrity of the State’s Attorney’s office.”

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