- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2019

Two top deputies to Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx have announced their resignations on the heels of the uproar over her office’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

Both prosecutors — April Perry and Mark Rotert — have reportedly said their departures slated for May 3 are unrelated to the prosecution’s decision last month to drop all 16 felony charges against Mr. Smollett, who was accused of faking a hate crime. He has denied the allegations.

Even so, the high-level resignations fed the turmoil surrounding the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office under Ms. Foxx, who has faced calls from police organizations for her resignation over the Smollett case.

Mr. Rotert, director of the Conviction Integrity Unit, said he was retiring, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that the Smollett situation “had absolutely zero percent to do with my decision.”

In a Thursday statement, Ms. Foxx praised his work in vacating more than 70 convictions in what has been described as the first “mass exoneration” in Cook County history of cases tainted by the involvement of disgraced former Sgt. Ronald Watts.

“Under his tenure, we have vacated the convictions of over 70 wrongfully convicted men and women,” said Ms. Foxx. “We have created national standards and protocols for reviewing past convictions. The people of Cook County have been well served by his leadership and he has well earned his retirement.”

As chief ethics officer, Ms. Perry wrote the memo explaining that Ms. Foxx has recused herself from the case after emails surfaced showing that she intervened on behalf of the Smollett family with Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Ms. Foxx, who was elected in November 2016, said later that her recusal was informal, prompting criticism from both national and Illinois prosecutors’ associations, which described her handling of the case as highly irregular.

“I am also grateful for April Perry’s tenure as the first ever Chief Ethics Officer for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office,” said Ms. Foxx. “She has been a valuable resource to the office in ensuring that we operate with the highest levels of integrity and professionalism. I wish her well in her new endeavors.”

She also sent an email to staff announcing a May 1 farewell party for the prosecutors, according to the Sun-Times.

Mr. Smollett, co-star of the Fox series “Empire,” was accused of faking a Jan. 29 hate crime after reporting that two men in ski masks attacked him, called him homophobic and racial slurs, and put a noose around his neck.

In emails released Wednesday, Ms. Foxx pushed back against charging Mr. Smollett with 16 felony counts, saying, “just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.” The email was dated March 8, after her recusal.

She also referred to the 36-year-old Smollett as a “[w]ashed up celeb,” and asked why accused pedophile R. Kelly had been charged with only 10 counts two weeks previously.

“Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts,” Ms. Foxx said in the email. “Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16 counts.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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