Chicago prosecutor defends decision to drop Smollett charges

FILE- In this Feb. 23, 2019, file photo, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after R. Kelly was ordered held on a $1 million bond, in Chicago. The Chicago police union's president alleges that the county's top prosecutor interfered with the probe of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett before recusing herself and wants the Justice Department to investigate. WLS-TV in Chicago reports that Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham wrote the Justice Department following reports that Foxx asked Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to let the FBI investigate Smollett's allegations that he was attacked. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, File)

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Wednesday defended the decision by her staff to drop charges that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack in January.

Foxx recused herself before Smollett was charged last month because she had discussed the case with a Smollett family member. The case was handed to First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats.

Foxx didn’t directly answer the question when CBS 2 TV in Chicago asked if she believed Smollett was innocent, as Smollett has continued to contend, saying only that the matter was handled properly. She pointed to Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bond and doing community service in return for dropping the charges. Magats has said that he does not believe Smollett is innocent and Chicago police say he faked the attack.

“I believe that the outcome — him having to forfeit the $10,000, having to do community service, based on the allegations, and again the (low level) felony and no (criminal) background, are an outcome that we could expect with this type of case,” she said.

She also insisted no one tried to intervene on Smollett’s behalf, despite emails showing that Foxx was contacted by people linked to Smollett about the case.

“There was no attempt, whatsoever, to influence the outcome of this case,” she said. “None whatsoever.”

Email and text messages provided to the Chicago Sun-Times by Foxx’s office show former first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff Tina Tchen contacted Foxx a few days after the report of the attack to set up a telephone conversation with a Smollett relative. Foxx told the Sun-Times the relative expressed concerns over leaked information that media outlets attributed to “police sources.” Foxx then called Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to ask him to let the FBI investigate the alleged attack. The contacts were cited by Foxx in recusing herself from the case on Feb. 13, well before Smollett was charged.

An attorney for Smollett late Wednesday blasted Chicago officials , saying they have “continued their campaign against Jussie Smollett after the charges against him have been dropped.”

Patricia Brown Holmes said the case is closed.

“We should all allow Mr. Smollett to move on with his life as a free citizen,” she said in a statement.

Again Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized prosecutors, saying that dropping charges made no sense.

“Something is rotten in Denmark,” he told reporters Wednesday during an unrelated event. “It doesn’t add up.” Hours after the charges were dismissed Tuesday, Emanuel called the outcome “a whitewash.”

Also Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said the Democrat is considering a lawmaker’s request to review the prosecutors’ decision to dismiss charges against Smollett.

Raoul spokeswoman Annie Thompson had no further comment Wednesday.

Republican state Rep. David McSweeney filed a resolution requesting a “comprehensive examination” of the circumstances around the Smollett case.

The House would have to approve McSweeney’s resolution. Democrats outnumber Republicans 74-44. And the attorney general is not bound by such a legislative request.

Defense attorneys have said Smollett’s record was “wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts he’d faced. The actor told reporters Tuesday that he had “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”

Authorities alleged that Smollett, who is black and gay, knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him as a publicity stunt.