Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx is facing blistering criticism from an anonymous assistant state’s attorney in her office over the handling of Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s case, who described the situation as “an international laughing stock” in a letter published by CWB Chicago on Monday. The unnamed prosecutor also ripped Foxx for suggesting racism was behind the criticism of her dropping all charges against the actor.
Excerpts of the letter read:
The State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO) is an international laughingstock, as politicians, comedians, scholars, legal pundits and regular ol’ citizens alike blast its handling of the case against Jussie Smollett. The criticism is pointed squarely at Kim Foxx, the first African American female elected to fill the prestigious role of Cook County State’s Attorney.
In the wake of said criticism, Ms. Foxx speaks at a Rainbow PUSH coalition meeting and states she cannot run an office “driven by anger and public sentiment.” She says “the goal posts change” when an African-American takes the position of head prosecutor, seemingly calling the critique of the SAO’s handling of the Smollett case racially-based and derogatory toward her people. This, while Jamal Green stands on the same stage and refers to the Chicago Police Department as the “blue klux klan,” and Bobby Rush states that the Fraternal Order of Police has long been the sworn enemy of black people. […]
And blaming Jussie Smollett fallout on race? That is just ignorant and self-serving. It is a complete bastardization of a bona fide movement against acts of racism, which, as a society we should obviously not tolerate. Much like Jussie Smollett’s acts bastardized a bona fide movement against hate crimes. […]
Just to be clear – this is not an attack on Ms. Foxx’s race, it is an attack on her ethics and her efficacy as State’s Attorney.
Click here to read the full letter.
The letter’s publication comes after Foxx defended her office’s decision to drop the charges during a Saturday press conference, contending that defendants in similar cases have had their charges dropped during her tenure.
Foxx made the comments during a defiant and emotional address at the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition. Foxx openly wondered if her race had something to do with the harsh criticism she has faced since her office announced that charges against Smollett had been dropped. The actor was accused of staging what he claimed to be a racist and homophobic attack on January 29 to boost his career. Smollett told two masked individuals beat him, doused him with an unknown chemical substance, placed a thin rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before fleeing.
“I have been asking myself for the last two weeks what is this really about,” she said. “As someone who has lived in this city, who came up in the projects of this city to serve as the first African American woman in this role, it is disheartening to me … that when we get in these positions somehow the goalposts change.”
Last month, Foxx’s office backpedaled on claims that the top prosecutor formally rescued herself from the case after Tina Tchen, the former chief of staff of former first lady Michelle Obama, asked her to have the police’s Smollett probe handed over to the FBI. Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo has said she could serve up to 20 years in jail if convicted of corruption in relation to her handling of the high-profile case.
In her remarks, Foxx did not address specifics of the case, or the criticism leveled by legal experts and others who said it was highly unusual not to require an admission of guilt by Smollett, particularly since at the time they dropped charges, prosecutors said they believed they could have proven the charges against the actor.
“In my 48 years of practice, I certainly have never seen a deferred prosecution done like that,” Richard Kling, an IIT-Kent Law School professor told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
Foxx also responded to the calls by various critics to resign, saying that she will complete her term that ends next year and has plans to run for re-election.
Meanwhile, Chicago officials announced last Thursday they will file a civil lawsuit against Smollett for the cost of the investigation into his alleged hate hoax. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s chief legal advisor notified Smollett the week prior that the city is seeking $130,000 from him within seven days or face persecution for lying about his purported assault.
Lori Lightfoot, who is scheduled to sworn in as Chicago’s next mayor on May 20th, could reverse any legal actions officials against the actor. In a recent appearence on MSNBC, Lightfoot said Smollett must be held accountable for potential wrongdoing.
“The State’s Attorney’s office here which made the decision unilaterally to drop the charges has to give a much more fulsome explanation,” Lightfoot told host Craig Melvin. “We cannot create the perception that if you’re rich or famous or both that you got one set of justice — and for everybody else it’s something much harsher. That won’t do and we need to make sure that we have a criminal justice system that has integrity.”
“I believe that everybody is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” she went on. “But I saw — as I’m sure you and your listeners saw — a very compelling case, with videotapes, witness statement and other information that looked like he had staged a hoax, and if that happened he’s got to be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, Empire actress Taraji P. Henson told The View last that Smollett will return to the Fox Entertain drama next season despite the ongoing controversy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.