After her office shocked the country by suddenly dropping all felony charges against former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett and sealing all records of the case, Chicago State's Attorney Kim Foxx and her office have officially lost the confidence of the Chicago police, the Democratic Chicago mayor, and now the editors of the city's revered paper, the Chicago Tribune.
In a stunning development Tuesday, Foxx's office abruptly announced that they were dropping all charges against Smollett and burying the case. “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution," Foxx's office announced without any prior warning to police or the mayor Tuesday.
The actions of Foxx's office, said the editors of the Chicago Tribune in an editorial Tuesday, are simply "indefensible."
"After State’s Attorney Kim Foxx makes errors of judgment that lead her to recuse herself, after Chicago detectives expend thousands of man hours doing meticulous work, after police Superintendent Eddie Johnson excoriates Smollett publicly for dragging the city’s name through the mud, after Foxx’s prosecutors take the case before a grand jury, after the grand jurors indict Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct … after all that, Cook County prosecutors shock Chicagoans and the rest of the country on Tuesday with news that they’re dropping all charges against Smollett," the paper's editors write. "That is, Foxx’s office essentially says: Never mind. No big deal. Move along."
"It’s an indefensible decision, a deal hashed out in secret, with — this is outrageous — Smollett not even required to take ownership of his apparent hoax," they continue. "Not even required to apologize for allegedly exploiting hate crime laws. And not even required to reimburse Chicago taxpayers for the enormous cost of this investigation." The result is Chicagoans and their fellow Americans feeling "bamboozled by Foxx’s office, and used by Smollett."
Smollett and his lawyers — including Mark Geragos, who has been named as a co-conspirator in federal charges against Michael Avenatti — celebrated the state's attorney's decision as having completely "exonerated" the actor. Smollett declared in a brief statement Tuesday that he is the true victim here, just as he has insisted all along.
"I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one," Smollett insisted in a press conference Tuesday. "This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life." He went on to promise to "continue to fight for the justice, equality, and betterment of marginalized people everywhere."
In a joint press conference Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson issued blistering condemnations of the actions of Foxx's office. "This is a whitewash of justice," Emanuel declared. "Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else."
The Tribune agrees with Emanuel and Johnson: Smollett needed to be held accountable. "Accountability, or lack of it, is at the heart of Tuesday’s stunner. Smollett walks, merely forfeiting the $10,000 cash bond he had posted."
After instant, massive backlash, First Assistant State's Attorney Joe Magats issued a "clarification" to the press: "We didn't exonerate him," said Magats, making clear that prosecutors believed he was in fact guilty and that the police investigation was sound. "It’s a mistake and it’s wrong to read into the decision that there was something wrong or that we learned something about the case that we didn’t already know," Magats told the Tribune.
So, the Tribune, Emanuel, Johnson and so many others are left asking: Why drop the case and let someone avoid accountability, fail to repay the city for all the apparently wasted resources, and enjoy the ability to claim "exoneration"? There's no defensible answer.