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Review cites ‘operational failures’ in Jussie Smollett prosecution

Actor Jussie Smollett
In this March 26, 2019, file photo, actor Jussie Smollett smiles and waves to supporters before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped in Chicago.
(Paul Beaty / Associated Press)

A special prosecutor in Chicago said Monday that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office abused their discretion in the case against actor Jussie Smollett but did nothing criminal.

In a statement on the conclusions of his investigation, special prosecutor Dan Webb sharply criticized the handling of the Smollett case by Foxx and her assistant prosecutors, saying their handling was marked by disarray and misleading statements.

In March last year, Foxx’s office surprised and angered many in Chicago by dropping charges that accused the former “Empire” actor of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself. Smollett is still adamant that the attack was real and wasn’t a publicity hoax.

The saga of Jussie Smollett’s alleged January attack in Chicago took a surreal series of twists and turns leading up to the March 26 announcement that all charges against the “Empire” actor had been dropped.

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Webb’s statement said his investigation “did not develop evidence that would support any criminal charges against State’s Attorney Foxx or any individual working at (her office).” But it added, it “did develop evidence that establishes substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” in how it handled the Smollett matter.

Webb’s findings announced Monday came after charges were restored against Smollett by the same special prosecutor in February. Webb said at the time that dropping the charges against Smollett was unjustified, including because the evidence against Smollett seemed overwhelming and because he was not required to admit that the attack was a hoax.

One of the focuses of Webb’s inquiry was about whether Foxx acted improperly by speaking to a Smollett relative and a onetime aide of former First Lady Michelle Obama before the charges were dropped, or by weighing in on the case after recusing herself.

Foxx is the first Black woman to hold Chicago’s top law enforcement job. She defeated her primary opponents earlier this year even as they made her handling of the Smollett case central to their campaigns. In overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, the primary invariably determines who wins the general election.

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Charging documents refiled by Webb in February accuse the Black, openly gay actor of making a false police report in claiming two men attacked him early on Jan. 29, 2019, in downtown Chicago, shouting slurs and looping a rope around his neck.

Reform advocates have hailed reforms Foxx pushed through — often over the angry objections of Chicago’s police union and chiefs of police across Cook County, including treating certain nonviolent crimes, such as shoplifting, as lower priorities.


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