Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who a year ago dismissed all charges against Jussie Smollett, responded with outrage Tuesday to the actor being indicted for the same alleged crimes.
Foxx’s office said the development was clearly the result of “the further politicization of the justice system” in “the era of Donald Trump.”
Earlier in the day, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb obtained an indictment on six felony charges against Smollett for allegedly staging a violent hate crime against himself last January. Smollett said two masked men jumped him outside his Chicago apartment while calling him racist and homophobic slurs and shouting, “This is MAGA country.”
Webb accused Smollett, who is black and openly gay, of making four separate false reports to Chicago police related to his account.
The special prosecutor also said he was continuing to investigate “whether any person or office involved in the Smollett case engaged in wrongdoing, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office or individuals in that office.”
Foxx, who is facing a March 17 primary against three other Democrats, sought to defend herself by deflecting blame to Trump, as she has repeatedly done during her reelection campaign.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office charged Jussie Smollett with multiple counts, and today the Special Prosecutor did the same,” Foxx’s spokeswoman said in a statement. “What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive.”
In October 2016, shortly before the presidential election, then-FBI Director James Comey, re-opened an investigation into then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.
Kim Foxx vs. Dan Webb
Chicago police expended numerous man-hours looking into Smollett’s claims of being attacked. But they arrested him a month later, accusing the actor of paying two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in an effort to use the notoriety to advance his career.
In March, Foxx’s office charged Smollett in a 16-count indictment only to dismiss the charges three weeks later as part of an unofficial “plea deal” with the actor. He agreed to perform 16 hours of community service and pay $10,000 for legal fees. The move drew an outcry from then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s police superintendent, who branded the reversal a miscarriage of justice.
The state’s attorney’s office said at the time that the decision to drop the charges was a just outcome.
Foxx claimed that she recused herself from the case after speaking to a relative of Smollett at the request of Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff. But she later said she only recused herself “in a colloquial sense.”
A Cook County grand jury returned the indictment after the special prosecutor found “reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett,” Webb said Tuesday.
Jussie Smollett continues to play the victim
Smollett’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, said the special prosecutor’s use of police detectives who took part in the original investigation of her client raised “serious questions about the integrity” of his renewed prosecution.
The previous charges “were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence,” Glandian said. The attempt to prosecute Smollett anew ahead of the Cook County state’s attorney primary election next month “is clearly all about politics, not justice,” she said.
Smollett, 37, has stood by his story, which he publicly detailed in an emotional interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last February. At the time, many other celebrities, as well as activists, politicians and journalists rushed to condemn not just the attackers but the supposed state of President Donald Trump’s America.
The new indictment of Smollett capped a five-month probe by the special prosecutor. A Cook County grand jury returned the indictment after the special prosecutor found “reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett,” Webb said.
In criticizing Foxx, Webb said he was unable to find “documentary evidence” that Smollett’s case was handled similarly to low-level felony cases involving non-celebrity defendants.
(Pluralist and Reuters contributed to this report.)