When the Chicago Sun-Times published a letter from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in January 2019 entitled “bond court reform has not put more violent offenders back on the street,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had a surprising reaction.
“[S]o dumb,” Foxx told one of her top aides in a text. “She should have let Evans write it,” a reference to Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.
CWBChicago found Foxx’s reaction in a trove of nearly 4,000 text messages and emails that were sent to her personal cellphone and Gmail accounts. The documents were secured by our team via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Asked about Foxx’s surprising reaction, a spokesperson said they were “unable to provide context on this specific information.”
In the letter, Preckwinkle went to bat for “affordable bail” reforms that Evans ordered in Sept. 2017 after Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson publicly implied the revised bail policies were putting violent offenders back on the streets. Most of her claims appear to be based on performance reports published by Evans.
Last summer, CWBChicago informed Evans’ office of major errors in the dataset he used to generate glowing reviews of the bail program’s success. His office promised to provide “corrected” data. Instead, his office severed all communications with CWBChicago and never provided the promised “corrected” information.
And last month, the Chicago Tribune published an extensive report after its reporters “found flaws in both the data underlying Evans’ report and the techniques he used to analyze it.”
In an op-ed published by the Tribune last week, two University of Utah researchers said they studied Evans’ affordable bail success story and they concluded “it appears that…Judge Evans’ findings are wrong.”
“After Cook County put in place more generous release procedures, the number of released felony defendants charged with committing new crimes increased by 45%. And the number of defendants charged with committing new violent crimes increased by 33%,” professors Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles wrote.
Interestingly, Cassell and Fowles said they sent their findings to Evans more than a month ago. “Judge Evans has not substantively replied to us,” they said. At least we’re not alone.
Looking back at Foxx’s “so dumb” reactions, it seems she may have suspected that Evans’ bond reform moves were a political landmine that Preckwinkle should have stayed clear of.
While Foxx’s office would not comment directly on Foxx’s reaction to Evans’ bail reforms, a spokesperson said, the office “is committed to protecting public safety while ensuring fairness for all of those engaged in the criminal justice system. We will continue to prioritize both of these values as we work with our partners on meaningful bond reform efforts in Cook County.”
A peek behind the curtain
Another exchange in Foxx’s personal Gmails provides an interesting look at the process that goes into the creation of political op-eds and letters to editors.
As it turns out, those pieces aren’t necessarily written by the public official who gets the byline.
In late November 2016, top Foxx aides exchanged a series of emails as they wrote, edited, and rewrote an op-ed piece that they wanted to appear in the Chicago Tribune as Foxx took office the following week.
“I tried my best to keep Kim’s voice, but I know others will have a better sense of this than me,” Eric Sussman wrote after making “significant” changes to the proposed piece.
Katie Hill, another top Foxx advisor, “did so much reworking [of Sussman’s draft] that redlining became not helpful,” she wrote.
Early on Dec. 1, someone — apparently Foxx — pointed out that the word “trafficking” was misspelled in the final version. “Otherwise looks good.” The state’s attorney’s office redacted the name of the person who caught the misspelling and sent the approval from documents provided to CWBChicago.
But the Foxx team got bad news just a few hours after the group finalized the piece.
“The Trib won’t take the op-ed, said it’s too campaign like,” wrote Foxx communications leader Kayce Ataiyero. “We can publish it on our new social media channels and home page today as an open letter to the community.”
Foxx suggested pitching the piece to the Sun-Times. The effort was apparently unsuccessful.