In yet another wrinkle to the Jussie Smollett "hoax hate crime" case that's raising some eyebrows, USA Today reported this week that the former chief of staff for Michelle Obama pushed to get the Chicago Police Department to turn over its Smollett investigation to the FBI. The Chicago PD's investigation eventually resulted in the actor being charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false report after allegedly orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself.
According to USA Today, court documents reveal that Obama's former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, contacted Kim Foxx, the Chicago-area's lead prosecutor, before charges were brought against Smollett in February to request that the police department let the FBI take over the investigation into the since-fired "Empire" star.
The paper reports that texts and emails provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office show that Tchen told Foxx that Smollett's family had "concerns" about how the Chicago PD were handling the case, which eventually turned dramatically against the actor and singer. Tchen, an attorney based in Chicago who co-founded the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, encouraged Foxx to contact Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to ask him to cede the investigation to federal authorities.
"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson," Foxx told Tchen in a February 1 email. "I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation."
In a text message with one of Smollett's relatives, whose name USA Today reports was redacted, Foxx said, "Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask. Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted."
"Omg this would be a huge victory," said the relative.
"I make no guarantees, but I’m trying," responded Foxx.
"Foxx recused herself from the investigation before Smollett was charged," USA Today reports. "Her first deputy, Joe Magats, is overseeing the case." Foxx later told the Chicago Sun-Times that the actor's family was simply concerned about leaks to the media and thought the FBI would keep a "tighter lid on the information."
Superintendent Johnson confirmed Foxx's claims that she'd contacted him. "I did speak to the FBI because they handle hate crimes," he told USA Today. "We had conversations about it, but at the end of the day it stayed where it should have, in my opinion."
The paper reached out to Tchen but got no response.
On Thursday, Smollett pleaded not guilty to charges brought by a grand jury last week. The jury charged him with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct: "Eight counts for what he told the officer who responded to the report of the Jan. 29 attack in downtown Chicago, and eight counts for what he later told a detective about being the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic beating by two masked men," Fox News reported.
"Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission [of the claims] there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed," the indictment states.
Smollett is also under investigation by federal authorities for allegedly sending a "hate" letter containing white powder to himself.