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‘Abuses Of Discretion,’ ‘Operational Failures’: Special Counsel Releases Report Blasting Chicago Prosecutor For Jussie Smollett Deal
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 26: Actor Jussie Smollett after his court appearance at Leighton Courthouse on March 26, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. This morning in court it was announced that all charges were dropped against the actor. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

A special prosecutor, designed to assess how the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office (CCSAO) handled the Jussie Smollett case, released his report, lambasting Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx for “abuses of discretion,” “special treatment” and other malfeasance related to Smollett’s alleged hoax hate crime.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb released both a 12-page summary and full, 60-page report of his findings, and though he found no criminal wrongdoing, Webb had plenty to say on Foxx’s office’s decision to allow Smollett to bargain to an unofficial “plea deal” inked outside the boundaries of the legal system, with Foxx’s office dropping 16 charges of lying to Chicago police in return for a mere 16 hours of community service and for forfeiting a $10,000 bond.

The investigation, Webb said in a statement, “did not develop evidence that would support any criminal charges against State’s Attorney Foxx or any individual working at [her office].” But, he added, the investigation  “did develop evidence that establishes substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures.”

In particular, Webb found that Smollett’s sweetheart deal, which did not involve any true plea to a crime (but which did not absolve Smollett of wrongdoing), was not available to all Cook County defendants as Foxx claimed.

“There were not thousands of (or, arguably any) similar cases that the CCSAO resolved in a similar way to the initial Smollett case,” Webb noted. “The CCSAO could not identify any specific similar CCSAO cases in which it relied upon when resolving the Smollett case.”

Foxx told media at the time that the CCSAO had “referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution. This is not a new or unusual practice.”

Smollett, of course, now famously involved the Chicago Police Department in a two-week investigation into what he termed a racist and homophobic attack outside of his apartment in Chicago’s tony Streeterville neighborhood. Although Smollett claimed to have been accosted by two white men who shouted slurs, punched him in the face, threw a noose around his neck, and departed warning Smollett that Chicago is “MAGA country,” Chicago police could find no evidence of a crime.

They did, however, find evidence that Smollett had orchestrated the crime himself, with the help of two extras he met on the set of his show, “Empire.”

Initially, prosecutors charged Smollett with 16 counts of lying to Chicago police. Weeks later, they dropped the charges without explanation.

WTTW reports that Webb’s investigation into why Foxx’s office suddenly reversed course on Smollett’s case, moving swiftly from a 16-count indictment to a meager, unofficial plea deal, turned up little.

“According to the report, Acting State’s Attorney Joseph Magats and Lead Prosecutor Risa Lanier did not learn any new evidence from the time the initial charges were filed against Smollett to warrant the eventual dismissal,” WTTW says. “During his investigation, Webb found those in charge of the case had ‘significantly and meaningfully divergent explanations’ of how that decision was made and who negotiated the terms of dismissal.”

Webb, in his report, also criticized Foxx’s decision to step away from the Smollett case and allow an assistant state’s attorney to handle matters instead of asking the court to appoint a special prosecutor and accused Foxx of making “false” statements to the media in regards to this “major legal defect.” He found no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing in Foxx’s communications with Tina Tchen, who, according to text messages obtained by local news outlets, was lobbying Foxx to refer Smollett’s case to federal authorities at the behest of Smollett’s family.

Foxx’s office seized on Webb’s decision not to charge Foxx with “any criminal charges based on bribery, failure to report a bribe, official misconduct, obstruction of justice, perjury, or any other criminal statute.”

The case, though, is not over for Smollett, who will face several charges of obstructing justice later this year. The same special prosecutor who issued Monday’s findings revived the case against Smollett in February.

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