Throw root beer on Kim Foxx? That’s a felony. Pepper spraying an average person? That’s a misdemeanor.

CHICAGO — After William Swetz allegedly tossed a Big Gulp in the face of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx as she took a walk last month, prosecutors in Foxx’s office charged him with a felony: aggravated battery in a public place.

That charge can be filed against anyone who commits a battery of any severity on the public way. But most batteries that don’t seriously injure someone are filed as misdemeanors.

If Swetz threw a Big Gulp on an average citizen, would he face a felony charge? Given that he is not accused of targeting Foxx because of her position as an elected official—he claims he didn’t even know who she was—and she was not injured, it seems unlikely.

We remember a guy accused of hitting a driver in the forehead with a rock last December. He was charged with a misdemeanor.

Out of curiosity, we pulled some recently filed misdemeanor battery reports on Tuesday to see how the allegations compare to throwing a cup of root beer on someone.

As it turns out, a man recently accused of dousing another man’s face with pepper spray was only charged with a misdemeanor. The victim, 35, told police he was walking in the 2200 block of South Wentworth when the man started yelling and spraying him with the chemical. According to CPD, the alleged assailant admitted to discarding the pepper spray canister before they arrived.

If getting root beer tossed in your face is a felony, why doesn’t pepper spray qualify as a felony? From what we’ve seen, pepper spraying people is generally considered a misdemeanor in these parts. But root beering someone? That’s felony territory.

The same man accused of pepper spraying that victim was arrested again last Saturday after he allegedly handcuffed a 77-year-old woman and pushed her against a wall. He left the woman’s handcuffs on and ran away. Once again, the charge filed is misdemeanor battery.

A woman who hit a police officer in the face after the Chicago Pride Parade last Sunday was charged with misdemeanor battery. Striking a police officer is a felony in and of itself. And they were on the public way, too.

Also charged with misdemeanor battery this week is a man who allegedly punched a supermarket manager in the face while shoplifting. In fact, punching someone in the face is almost always a misdemeanor-level offense. As this example, this example and this example demonstrate. So is spitting on someone and hitting a woman you don’t know.

We’re still waiting for the Flossmoor Police Department to provide their documentation of the Foxx incident. The agency has illegally delayed its response to our Freedom of Information Act request for those records until (if they get their way) mid-August.

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About Tim Hecke 363 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is