Court Battles

Report cites ‘major failure’ in prosecutor’s office over handling of Jussie Smollett case

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Illinois engaged in “substantial abuses” in a case involving Jussie Smollett in 2019, according to a special prosecutor’s new report. 

Cook County special prosecutor Dan Webb released a report on Monday, concluding that the state’s attorney’s office led by Kim Foxx experienced “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” as they investigated an assault and hate crime reported by Smollett in 2019.

A jury found Smollet guilty on Dec. 9 of lying to police about the incident after Webb brought charges against him in 2020.

The new report details findings of an investigation into why Foxx’s office dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26, 2019, about a month after he was arrested. Webb said Foxx and her office made “false and/or misleading statements” about the decision to drop charges and leave Smollett with just 15 hours of community service and a $10,000 fee as punishment.

Webb said prosecutors at the time believed the case against Smollett was strong, and it would be a breach of standard policy to drop the case without any substantial, new evidence.

His report also found issues with the way the state’s attorney’s office’s characterized the decision to drop charges against Smollett to the public.  

The report found that Foxx had made false or misleading statements about her communication with Smollett’s sister, actress Jurnee Smollett. Foxx reportedly had three phone calls with Jurnee Smollett after her brother was under investigation. 

She claimed that these contacts were made while she thought that Smollett was a victim of a hate crime. 

Foxx recused herself from the investigation shortly after false reports came out suggesting she was related to Smollett, but Webb said her entire office should have referred the case to a special prosecutor.

In a statement, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said they “remain steadfast that the office acted within its broad prosecutorial discretion.”

“We respectfully disagree with the OSP’s findings of abuse of prosecutorial discretion. A prosecutor’s discretion is as broad as any in the law, and differences of opinion as to how a case was handled do not signify an abuse of discretion,” the statement read. “Finally, it is important to emphasize that the OSP did not find any criminal activity or undue influence on the part of the State’s Attorney or the CCSAO.”

Smollet reported an assault and hate crime to the Chicago Police Department in February 2019.

Initially, Foxx’s office charged Smollett with a felony charge of disorderly conduct. On March 7, he was indicted on 16 counts, but days later, all charges against him were dropped.

Foxx told Webb she made the decision because people “wanted this guy out of town,” referring to Smollett, and the case was attracting a lot of press attention.

“I think the kind of negotiating, ‘Let’s get rid of that guy,’ at the expense of really what his actions did shortchanged, I think, the accountability the city deserved,” she told Webb, according to the report.

Webb was appointed in August 2019 by a judge in Cook County to investigate the incident — both into Foxx’s office and Smollett’s alleged crime.

Webb introduced six counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett, and the actor was later indicted on the charges in February 2020. His trial began in late November.

Webb’s investigative report was based on 43 interviews and 26,000 documents. The report did not recommend any criminal charges, but it did find that the actions taken “may rise to the level of a violation of legal ethics by State’s Attorney Foxx and the CCSAO lawyers relating to false and/or misleading public statements made about the prosecution and resolution of the Initial Smollett Case.”

–Updated at 12:06 p.m.

Tags abuse Chicago court case Dan Webb Illinois Jussie Smollett Kim Foxx neglect prosecution Special report Trial

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