Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx probably will and arguably should lose her job next year over her office's handling of the Jussie Smollett case.
Yes, there are many worse crimes committed every day in Chicago than staging a hate-inspired attack and filing a false police report about it -- the offense with which Smollett was charged. And no, justice did not demand that Smollett be shackled and shipped off to prison for allegedly orchestrating a stunt.
But justice demanded resolution and accountability. And Foxx appeared oblivious to this imperative as she made the media rounds attempting to explain why her office sent Smollett on his merry way Tuesday morning without extracting an admission of guilt or collecting a meaningful fine.
Her tone-deaf statements included equating Smollett to the raft of no-name, low-level, nonviolent offenders who have received the "go and sin no more" treatment, and patronizing those who are outraged by the outcome as "people who don't understand the intricacies of the justice system."
Here's what we understand: High-profile criminal cases are the lens through which the public sees and evaluates the administration of justice as a whole.
Is the alleged crime investigated thoroughly and honestly? Is the process of obtaining an outcome transparent and fair? Does the result give us confidence that all the low-profile cases most of us never hear of are being handled with integrity?
Smollett's claim was high-profile because he's a celebrity -- a star of TV's "Empire" -- and because he alleged that his attackers evoked President Donald Trump, used racial and homophobic slurs and deployed a noose in giving him a light beating on a Streeterville sidewalk in the wee hours of Jan. 29.
The claim got national attention and put pressure on the Chicago Police Department to track down the perpetrators or else risk looking indifferent to a disturbing battery against a prominent African-American gay man.
And when Smollett's claim unraveled and authorities alleged he and two acquaintances had faked the whole thing, the pressure shifted onto the Cook County state's attorney's office. Foxx and her team had to demonstrate that they take seriously the social damage caused by invented hate crimes, particularly ones that command significant investigatory resources.
It was a fairly basic task. They failed spectacularly.
The process that brought a surprise end to the case was anything but transparent. Prosecutors didn't even alert reporters to the "emergency" hearing where they dropped, without explanation, all 16 felony disorderly conduct charges, and where they didn't object to the sealing of the court file.
And although prosecutors got Smollett to forfeit his bond of $10,000 -- not much of a dent in the budget of an actor who reportedly makes more than 10 times that amount per episode of "Empire" -- they did not even ask for a confession or apology.
That allowed Smollett to repair immediately to the courthouse lobby and preen for the cameras about his innocence.
His lawyers have since repeatedly echoed this claim, for example responding Thursday to the city's demand that Smollett pay the cost of the investigation, later estimated at $130,000, with a statement saying, "It is the mayor and the police chief who owe Jussie -- owe him an apology -- for dragging an innocent man's character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough."
Such galling pieties have infuriated all of us who wanted to see the accused selfish charlatan humbled and fined for allegedly perpetrating such an ugly hoax.
Had the case against him fallen apart? That would have been a passable explanation given that witnesses do disappear or change their stories. But no, prosecutors expressed continued confidence in their ability to have proved Smollett guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Had prosecutors told themselves that a blindsided public would be satisfied by the, "Oh, we do this a lot" explanation of an abrupt dismissal of charges in a sensational case? Not unless they're extremely dense.
Foxx could have distanced herself from this blunder given that her own blunder -- emailing and texting with people close to Smollett early in the investigation -- had prompted her to step away from the case and leave it to underlings. But she grabbed ownership of it Wednesday, giving interviews in which she expressed pride and confidence in the way her office had handled the case.
And although she can point with some pride to the diversionary programs that have kept small-time offenders out of jail and offered them fresh starts and clean states, her betrayal of the public's understandable expectations of justice in the Smollett case will taint that entire initiative. Both the National District Attorneys Association and the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association have released statements this week sharply critical of Foxx.
She will be defending this deeply disappointing outcome from now until at least March 17, 2020. That's the date of the primary election in which she is now certain to face a Democratic challenger for the office whose ideals she has disgraced.
The award-winning "Mincing Rascals" podcast, on which I am a panelist, goes deep into this topic in the current episode. Find it wherever fine podcasts are served.