CHICAGO, Jan. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Chicago Crime Commission honored retired Illinois Appellate Justice Sheila O'Brien with its first Step Up for Chicago Award at its recent 100th anniversary luncheon. Last June, O'Brien, as a private citizen, successfully argued for a special prosecutor to review Cook County State's Attorney Kym Foxx's handling of the prosecution of television actor Jussie Smollett.
In January 2019, the Chicago Police Department aggressively investigated charges made by Smollett that he was a victim of a hate crime, spending $130,000 of its resources before concluding the claims were false and in bad faith and referred the matter to the Cook County State's Attorney for prosecution. Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself for unspecified reasons but after an unannounced hearing, dismissed all charges and sealed the record.
After O'Brien learned the charges had been dismissed, she wrote a guest column in the Chicago Tribune questioning Foxx's conflicts of interest and her so-called recusal and shortly afterward, as a private citizen, filed suit. In June, Circuit Court Justice Michael Toomin ruled in O'Brien's favor. Later last summer, he appointed Dan Webb, a partner at Chicago-based Winston & Strawn, and experienced special prosecutor to review the case and impanel a grand jury to hear testimony of any alleged wrongdoing. The investigation is ongoing.
"As the Chicago Crime Commission begins its second century of service, we recall the vision of our founders committed to taking back our city from widespread corruption and crime. It is in that vein that we honor Retired Justice Sheila O'Brien," said Robert Palmer, Board Member of the Chicago Crime Commission. "Justice O'Brien demonstrated what even a single private citizen can do to protect and safeguard our criminal justice system," he concluded.