Chicago prosecutor’s texts reveal frustration over Jussie Smollett case
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx described actor Jussie Smollett as a “washed up celeb who lied to cops” in texts to her staff.
“Sooo……I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases …16 counts on a class 4 (felony) becomes exhibit A,” she wrote on the same day that a Cook County grand jury indicted Smollett on a theory that he falsely reported being the victim of a hate crime in Chicago.
Foxx went on to make a comparison between Smollett’s case and another.
“Pedophile with 4 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. Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
“It’s not who we want to be.”
The texts and other communications between Foxx, her staff at the state attorney’s office and people outside their office were obtained by CNN through an open records request.
Foxx’s texts suggesting that Smollett was overcharged came March 8, more than two weeks after Foxx’s office announced she was removing herself from decision-making in the case. She has tied her self-removal to her interaction with a relative of Smollett or a friend of his family.
Previously released text and email messages show that Smollett family friend Tina Tchen told Foxx in early February that the actor’s family had concerns about the investigation, and that Foxx communicated with a separate person — identified by Foxx’s office as another Smollett family friend — about the case.
On March 26, less than three weeks after the indictment, her office dropped 16 felony charges against the “Empire” actor. Smollett agreed to forfeit $10,000 in bail and do community service.
Foxx said in a statement released Tuesday that she had reached out to Joseph Magats, the first assistant state’s attorney, after Smollett’s indictment “to discuss reviewing office policies to assure consistencies in our charging and our use of appropriate charging authority.”
“I was elected to bring criminal justice reform and that includes intentionality, consistency, and discretion. I will continue to uphold these guiding principles,” Foxx added.
Her office has said Foxx hadn’t formally recused herself from the case, but rather informally separated herself from making decisions about it. Because there was no formal recusal, she did not have to ask for a special prosecutor, her office said.
New materials show staff scrambling to react to police criticism
The new materials shed light into the frustrations and pressure that Foxx’s office was facing as it handled the Smollett case.
As the news broke that all charges were dropped, Foxx’s staff scrambled to handle media requests and faced criticism from Chicago police.
“Just wish I could have anticipated the magnitude of this response and planned a bit better,” Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier wrote in a text message.
At Foxx’s invitation, Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard will conduct an investigation of how her office handled the case. Chicago’s police union has called on Foxx to resign, arguing she failed to follow through on charges that used significant police resources.
The prosecutor has said she was never actively involved in the case because the crime was the lowest level of felony, but she did get updates until an email from the chief ethics officer went out to her staff, instructing them not to include her in discussions about the investigation.
CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.