Prosecutor welcomes outside investigation of Jussie Smollett case
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has received intense criticism this week for how her office handled the Jussie Smollett case. Foxx fired back in a Chicago Tribune op-ed published Friday, saying she would welcome an independent investigation into her office’s handling of the case.
All 16 felony charges against Smollett were abruptly dropped in a surprise decision Tuesday, shocking the Chicago Police Department. Smollett was charged last month for allegedly hiring two men to stage a racist and homophobic attack against him.
Foxx, who recused herself from the case after communicating with a Smollett family friend, said the “Empire” actor has not been exonerated or found innocent. She also admitted that it was uncertain that her office could secure a conviction.
“In determining whether or not to pursue charges, prosecutors are required to balance the severity of the crime against the likelihood of securing a conviction. For a variety of reasons, including public statements made about the evidence in this case, my office believed the likelihood of securing a conviction was not certain,” Foxx wrote.
The charges against Smollett were dropped after Smollett performed two days of community service and agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond. State prosecutor Joe Magats made the decision to drop the charges. Magats toldhe believes Smollett made up the allegations, but said the non-violent case qualifies for community service and a financial penalty, which he said is common.
Foxx, who took office in 2016, said she would have preferred for case records to be made public, but Illinois law prevents her office from releasing the records without Smollett’s approval. She wrote that similar offenses are typically resolved outside of court.
“These felonies are routinely resolved, particularly in cases involving suspects with no prior criminal record, long before a case ever nears a courtroom and often without either jail time or monetary penalties. Any prosecutor, law-enforcement leader or elected official not grandstanding or clouded by political expediency understands the purpose of sentencing guidelines,” Foxx said.
She also said her office should prioritize violent crime and instances of alleged police misconduct. “I am afraid when I see a CPD commander slain by a four-time felon who was walking the streets. I am also afraid when I see CPD resources used to initiallythe shooting death of Laquan McDonald,” she wrote.
President Trump on Thursday said the FBI and Justice Department would beSmollett’s case, calling the situation an “embarrassment to our nation.” It’s unclear what the Justice Department would be “reviewing” or why. The Department of Justice declined to comment on the investigation.