What to Know
- All criminal charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett were dropped Tuesday, his legal team said
- Prosecutors said despite dropping the charges that they "did not exonerate" Smollett. Still, the actor has maintained his innocence.
- Smollett completed community service and forfeited his $10,000 bond to the city, prosecutors said
The Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association on Thursday called the dismissal of charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett "highly unusual."
The association, which says its represents nearly 1,000 prosecutors across the state, said the handling of the case and the events of the past few days are "not condoned."
"The manner in which this case was dismissed was abnormal and unfamiliar to those who practice law in criminal courthouses across the state," the association said in a statement. "Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges alike do not recognize the arrangement Mr. Smollett received. Even more problematic, the State’s Attorney and her representatives have fundamentally misled the public on the law and circumstances surrounding the dismissal."
Among the issues the association said it had with the case were the fact that Foxx did not appoint a special prosecutor from outside her office to handle the case following her recusal, that the public was not notified of what was happening and that her office "falsely informed the public that the uncontested sealing of the criminal court case was 'mandatory' under Illinois law."
Their statement also slammed the statement that such an arrangement is "available to all defendants" and "not a new or unusual practice."
"These statements are plainly misleading and inaccurate. This action was highly unusual, not a statutory diversion program, and not in accordance with well accepted practices of State’s Attorney initiated diversionary programs," the association wrote.
"This irregular arrangement was an affront to prosecutors across the state, the Chicago Police Department, victims of hate crimes, and the people of the city of Chicago and Cook County," they added.
Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison called the decision a "slap in the face" and called for Foxx to appear before the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
All criminal charges against Smollett were dropped Tuesday, nearly two months after the actor was accused of orchestrating a hate crime attack on himself to further his career. The surprise decision was celebrated by Smollett and his legal team and blasted by Chicago's mayor and police department, who raised questions about the circumstances of the deal.
The news that charges would be dismissed came during an "emergency court appearance." Prosecutors later said the charges were dismissed in exchange for Smollett's forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and his performance of community service.
In a statement, the Cook County State's Attorney’s office said the decision came “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case."
"We believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case," the statement read.
In an interview Wednesday, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defended her office's decision and denied that she had any involvement after recusing herself from the case in February.
"I did not want, as this investigation changed, for there to be any question about my impartiality so I removed myself," she said, echoing earlier statements from her office that the decision to drop charges was not uncommon in disorderly conduct cases.
"Over the course of the last two years, we've had 5,700 people go through our pretrial diversion process, people who have non-violent offenses and who have no violence in their background," Foxx said. "And so I think when people see this one particular case it feels like an outlier where in fact, it's consistent with how we treat people charged with similar offenses with the same background."
Documents obtained earlier this month via Freedom of Information Act request showed that Foxx had asked Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI. The documents also showed correspondence between Foxx, an unknown person and Tina Tchen, a one-time assistant to former President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama.
"It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case," Foxx said. "At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was a victim."
Smollett pleaded not guilty to multiple disorderly conduct charges earlier this month. He was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report in February, with Chicago police alleging that he staged the attack the month before because he was "dissatisfied with his salary." A Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts.
With the charges dropped, Smollett continued to maintain his innocence, saying after court Tuesday that he has been "truthful and consistent on every single level since day one."
"We have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper, and to my knowledge, nothing improper was done," Smollett's attorney Tina Glandian said.
Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson hammered the decision to dismiss charges against him, saying they were unaware it was happening. Emanuel called the decision a "whitewash of justice."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city plans to send a bill to the "Empire" actor for the cost of the investigation surrounding the case.
"The police are assembling the cost [of the investigation]," Emanuel said. "They'll do that and then the corporation counsel of the city of Chicago will communicate to Jussie Smollett and his legal team about recouping that cost in that effort. And, given that he doesn't feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is when he writes the check, in the memo section he can put the word, 'I'm accountable' for the hoax."
"The finance is a piece of it and an acknowledgement that what he did at every level was wrong," he added.
A representative for Smollett's legal team said "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."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice will review the case, President Donald Trump claimed in a tweet Thursday. Both the FBI and the Department of Justice declined to comment on the case Thursday morning, according to NBC News.
Smollett's attorney said Thursday the actor simply wants to "move on," claiming the aftermath of the alleged beating was "much harsher" than the attack itself.
"What that attack was pales in comparison to the attack on him by the mayor, by the CPD, by the press, by the public," one of Smollett's lawyers, Tina Glandian said in an appearance on TODAY.