Chicago prosecutor who dropped charges against Jussie Smollett expunges more than 1,000 marijuana convictions

Kim Foxx, the Cook County state attorney who dismissed charges against Jussie Smollett earlier this year, filed motions Wednesday to expunge more than 1,000 marijuana convictions, a move that paves the way for clearing tens of thousands of convictions.

Foxx's motions are the first step in a plan to expunge convictions for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana, then permanently remove them from criminal records. Recreational marijuana will be legal in Illinois starting Jan. 1.

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. 

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.  (AP)

Foxx presented the first of the petitions to Chief Judge Timothy Evans in a court on the Chicago's Southwest Side. Evans granted the request to expunge the convictions from court records.

"Today, we made history and took the first step in the single largest and most equitable piece of criminal justice reform Illinois has ever seen," Foxx said in a statement. The effort to expunge records in minor marijuana cases is required by the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.

Foxx's office will use technology developed by a non-profit organization called “Code For America” to evaluate eligibility and remove minor marijuana convictions from people's records at no cost to them.

The people whose cases are being expunged include those who were convicted of misdemeanors, or Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony in Illinois.

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The effort — sure to be popular in the county's minority communities — comes as Foxx is running for re-election against a crowded field of candidates who will likely criticize Foxx over how she and her office handled the investigation of Jussie Smollett. The former "Empire" actor reported that he was a victim of a racist and homophobic attack last January.

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After communicating with a relative of Smollett, Foxx recused herself from his case. Her office charged the actor with staging the attack then abruptly dropping the charges. Now, a special prosecutor is investigating the decision to drop the charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.