A special prosecutor in Chicago said Monday that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office abused their discretion in the case against actor Jussie Smollett but did nothing criminal.
In a statement on the conclusions of his investigation, special prosecutor Dan Webb sharply criticized the handling of the Smollett case by Foxx and her assistant prosecutors, saying their handling was marked by disarray and misleading statements.
In March last year, Foxx’s office surprised and angered many in Chicago by dropping charges that accused the former "Empire" actor of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself. Smollett is still adamant that the attack was real and wasn’t a publicity hoax.
Webb's statement said his investigation "did not develop evidence that would support any criminal charges against State’s Attorney Foxx or any individual working at (her office)." But it added, it "did develop evidence that establishes substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures" in how it handled the Smollett case.
Webb’s findings announced Monday came after charges were restored against Smollett by the same special prosecutor in February. At the time, Webb said that dropping the charges against Smollett were unjustified because of the evidence against him and because he was not required to admit that the attack was a hoax.
One of the focuses of Webb’s inquiry was about whether Foxx acted improperly by speaking to one of Smollett's relatives and a onetime aide of former first lady Michelle Obama before the charges were dropped, or by weighing in on the case after recusing herself.
"This report puts to rest any implications of outside influence or criminal activity on the part of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department," the Cook County State's Attorney's office said in a statement. "As the report unequivocally confirms, State's Attorney Foxx was not involved in the decision-making process regarding the Smollett case at any point and there was no outside influence on that process. The CCSAO categorically rejects the OSP’s characterizations of its exercises of prosecutorial discretion and private or public statements as 'abuses of discretion' or false statements to the public. While the release does not say so, any implication that statements made by the CCSAO were deliberately inaccurate is untrue."
Jussie Smollett Case Coverage
Foxx is the first Black woman to hold Chicago’s top law enforcement job. She defeated her primary opponents earlier this year even as they made her handling of the Smollett case central to their campaigns. In overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, the primary invariably determines who wins the general election.
Charging documents refiled by Webb in February accuse the Black, openly gay actor of making a false police report, claiming that two men attacked him early on Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Chicago, shouting slurs and looping a rope around his neck.
Reform advocates have hailed reforms Foxx pushed through — often over the angry objections of Chicago’s police union and chiefs of police across Cook County, including treating certain nonviolent crimes, such as shoplifting, as lower priorities.