EXIT INTERVIEW: Exclusive sit down with just-departed Kim Foxx top staffer

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A few days after one of the top deputies for embattled Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx walked out of his office for the last time, he walked into ABC7 to talk with the I-Team.

Long time Chicago attorney and veteran prosecutor Mark Rotert was hired 22 months ago by Foxx to retool the state's attorney's department that reviews claims of wrongful convictions.

RELATED: 2 top staffers leaving Kim Foxx's State's Attorney's Office

Rotert announced he was leaving the state's attorney's office on March 27, the day after Foxx dropped faked hate crime charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett. The timing of Rotert's departure fueled speculation that it was linked to the Smollett controversy that began with Foxx's recusal from the case.

In our interview, Rotert maintains that the timing, while unfortunate for him and Foxx, was coincidental and that he had decided to leave the office months earlier.

Rotert, a former assistant U.S. attorney, one time staffer with the Illinois Attorney General's office, and long-time member of the defense bar, discussed the mood of the office during the Smollett debacle and said that controversies such as that are bound to happen in the nation's second largest prosecutor's office.

He did not bemoan Foxx, her decisions, or her performance and would not comment directly on whether he thought she did the right thing in Smollett.

Rotert did however speak extensively about the Conviction Integrity Unit that he overhauled during his less than two years in charge and said that the unit's work went on even while surrounded by flaming controversies and calls for Kim Foxx's resignation. He spoke openly about the difficulties of dealing with police, other prosecutors and defense attorneys concerning the possibilities of misconduct by investigators, poorly structured cases and exonerating scientific evidence.

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As chief of the state's attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit, Mark Rotert's team handled 150 requests per year from felons for relief. In this video he talks about the process and the philosophy of helping identify legitimate wrongful convictions.

Rotert's resignation coincided with that of April Perry, another prominent assistant state's attorney under Kim Foxx. That dual-departure raised the public relations temperature at the state's attorney's office even further last month. Perry was the chief ethics officer and had announced Ms. Foxx's recusal from the Smollett case. She has not spoken publicly about her resignation or her time in office.

Previous coverage:
Jussie Smollett: 'Empire' actor's contract extended, no plans for character to return
Jussie Smollett News: Osundairo brothers file defamation lawsuit against 'Empire' actor's attorneys
Kim Foxx receives death threats after Jussie Smollett charges dropped
Kim Foxx texts show she thought number of Jussie Smollett charges 'excessive'
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx asks for review of how Jussie Smollett case was handled
Jussie Smollett update: City sues 'Empire' actor for cost of investigating alleged staged attack
Jussie Smollett attorney responds to Chicago's civil suit threat
Chicago to file civil suit against 'Empire' actor for not paying $130K cost of police investigation
In wake of Jussie Smollett, suburban police chiefs take no confidence stance against State's Attorney Kim Foxx
Jussie Smollett case leads to protests for, against Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx
Jussie Smollett update: Thousands referred for alternative prosecution by Cook County prosecutors haven't completed process
Jussie Smollett update: City of Chicago asks Jussie Smollett to pay for $130,000 cost of investigation
Jussie Smollett update: What's inside the CPD investigative file?
Jussie Smollett update: FBI reviewing circumstances of Jussie Smollett's charges being dropped, sources confirm
Jussie Smollett update: Charges against 'Empire' actor dropped; 'not an exoneration,' prosecutor says
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