“Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx meddled in the Jussie Smollett case weeks after she claimed to have recused herself, newly public text messages reveal.
In the texts, Foxx pushed the lead prosecutor in the case to go easy on Smollett, saying he was just a “washed up celeb who lied to police.” Just over two weeks later, her office dropped all charges against the actor.
Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case on Feb. 19 because she had conversations with one of his family members when he was still being considered a victim of a crime, though she later claimed she “did not formally recuse herself.”
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However, Foxx went on to exchange dozens of texts with First Assistant Cook Country State’s Attorney Joe Magats, who took over the case for her. The messages were released Tuesday in response to a public records request by news outlets.
“Sooo … I am recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases … 16 counts on a class 4 [felony] becomes exhibit A.”
“Yes. I can see where that can be seen as excessive,” Magats replied.
Foxx then seemed to suggest that it was a bad look for her office to charge Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to the Chicago police but only charge singer R. Kelly with 10 counts of felony sex abuse.
“Pedophile with victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16. On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally,” Foxx said. “Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
“Agreed,” Magats said, promising to speak to other members of the office and “take a hard look at how we charge the cases and get it to something that covers what needs to be covered without being excessive and ultimately pointless.”
On March 3, Magats reported to Foxx that he had given her number to Michael Avenatti, who he said had “reached out” and was joining the case.
“Apparently he’s coming in to represent the Nigerian brothers in Smollet [sic],” Magats wrote, referring to Smollett’s former costars on Fox’s “Empire” whom police believe he hired to stage a fake hate crime against him on Jan. 29. “I gave him your office number.”
In a statement released Tuesday night, Foxx said she had only been trying to ensure that her office’s charging practices were consistent.
“After the indictment became public, I reached out to Joe to discuss reviewing office policies to assure consistencies in our charging and our use of appropriate charging authority,” Foxx said. “I was elected to bring criminal justice reform and that includes intentionality, consistency, and discretion. I will continue to uphold these guiding principles.”
On March 26, prosecutors announced they were not pursuing any of the charges against Smollett, even as Magats admitted: “I do not believe he is innocent.” In exchange, they said, the actor had done community service and agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond.
In a March 29 op-ed for The Chicago Tribune, Foxx defended her handling of the Smollett case as in the interest of public safety.
“I promised to spend my office’s finite resources on the most serious crimes in order to create communities that are both safer and fairer,” she wrote.
Foxx also said she would “welcome an outside, nonpolitical review of how we handled this matter.”
Cook County’s Inspector General Patrick Blanchard last week launched a probe into how Foxx’s office handled the case.
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