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.
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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.
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.
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