Kim Foxx, the recused Cook County State’s Attorney who is facing scrutiny for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, broke her silence on Wednesday to defend her office’s decision to drop the charges against him.
In a series of interviews with local news outlets in Chicago on Wednesday, Foxx stood behind her assistant Joseph Magats’ decision to let Smollett go scot-free after completing community service and paying a $10,000 bond forfeiture, and said it was in keeping with the circumstances of the case.
Smollett was first charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct by prosecutors then was hit with an additional 15 charges by a grand jury.
He was facing up to 48 years behind bars but Foxx said he likely would not have gone to jail and that anyone who disagreed did not understand the ‘intricacies’ of the law.
‘For people who are in the weeds of this, we recognize that the likelihood that someone would get a prison sentence for a Class 4 felony is slim.
‘No two cases are the same…this is not what it looks like on Law & Order, right?’ she told local radio station WBEZ.
Kim Foxx, the recused Cook County State’s Attorney who is facing scrutiny for her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, stood by her office’s decision on Wednesday and said Smollett got off because it was the lowest class of felony and he has no criminal background
‘The fact that people pick and choose which cases are most important I think breaks my heart.
‘This is not in anyway different that we’ve treated others,’ she said. I did not but I am glad you asked. I hired the first ever chief ethics officer that this office has ever had. It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case.
‘At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was considered a victim.
‘What was of concern to me was that that contact could not, would not, be construed, the appearance of it, to impact how we handled this case. So I made the decision, in consultation with my chief ethics officer, a week before he was charged, to remove myself from the case.’
Later, she said that Smollett only paid $10,000 because that was the cap under the alternative prosecution scenario which played out.
‘Mr Smollett was afforded the same opportunity that anyone in Cook County who had a non violent offense and the required background would be able to get,’ she said.
In February, Foxx’s office announced that she had decided to recuse herself because of the texts to Tina Tchen, a private attorney and Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, and one of Smollett’s relatives.
It was days before Smollett was charged and, at the time, she said she had taken the decision ‘out of an abundance of caution’.
‘Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case ,’ her spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
But on Wednesday, as she faced questions over why a special prosecutor was never put in place and why her office suddenly decided to drop the charges against Smollett, Foxx’s story changed.
Now, her office is claiming that she only ever ‘colloquially separated’ herself from the case.
As such, she did nothing wrong by not appointing a special prosecutor, they said.
‘[Foxx] did not formally recuse herself or the [State’s Attorney] Office based on any actual conflict of interest.
These are the emails exchanged between Tina Tchen and Kim Foxx on February 1, days after the incident on January 29 when Smollett was still being considered the victim of a hate crime
Tchen put one of Smollett’s relatives in touch with Foxx. Their texts are shown
‘As a result, she did not have to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor… it was a colloquial use of the term rather than in its legal sense,’ Kiera Ellis, a different spokeswoman, told
The texts continued until mid February then Foxx recused herself
The office ignored several other questions throughout the day including;
- Why didn’t Foxx recuse herself formally?
- When and how did they arrange with Smollett’s team that the charges would be dropped in exchange for him completing community service?
- What does Foxx have to say to the police criticism over her correspondence with Smollett’s family?
Police officers who have already called for Foxx to face a federal investigation for her highly suspicious’ conduct, are dismayed that all of the charges were dropped.
On Tuesday, its president hand delivered a copy of their request to investigate Foxx to the US Attorney in Illinois.
‘There’s text messages going back-and-forth between Foxx and Smollett’s private attorney. That’s a real problem.
‘We asked for an investigation before because something didn’t smell right.
‘Now, a judge sealed the court records so you can’t even get a copy of the police investigation,’ Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham said.
The judge, Honorable Judge Stephen Gregory Watkins, did not ask Smollett’s team why they wanted the case sealed on Tuesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decried the outcome.
Kim Foxx, the Cook County State’s Attorney who recused herself over the Jussie Smollett probe, is pictured with Jesse Jackson on February 28. Jackson has revealed he contacted Smollett when he was ‘in crisis’ and offered him his ‘council’. On Saturday and Monday, Smollett spent two days at Jackson’s civil rights organization and it was that community service which led prosecutors to suddenly drop the charges against him
‘This does not add up. They better get their story straight, this is making fools of us all,’ he said. He abused the city of Chicago, he committed a crime here. He lied about something,’ he went on, adding that it was not just the state but also a grand jury who thought Smollett was guilty.
‘He said he wanted to get his name clear. Let’s get to the bottom of this, let’s find out what happened,’ Emanuel said.
There are also abundant questions surrounding how Smollett was able to walk away from 16 felony charges with no criminal record, after paying just $10,000 and spending 16 hours performing community service at Rainbow PUSH, Jackson’s civil rights organization, after months of scrutiny over the case.
He was seen with Foxx, who gave him an award at the C.F. Stradford Awards, weeks ago.
It was a week after Smollett’s arrested for allegedly staging a hoax hate crime and lying about it and Foxx had already recused herself from the case for exchanging text messages with a member of the star’s family which police unions are now calling ‘highly suspicious’ in light of her office’s about-turn on the charges.
There were several award recipients that night who Foxx congratulated on Twitter.
In her tribute to Reverend Jackson, she acknowledged his organization.
‘The Rev Jackson needs no introduction. As founder & president of the RP Coalition, he has worked tirelessly to expand educational, business & employment opportunities for disadvantaged and people of color in Chicago.
‘I’m so happy to honor him with this award tonight,’ she wrote in a tweet along with a photograph of the pair.