The stunning announcement Tuesday that all 16 felony charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett were dropped without clear explanation has prompted a massive backlash against the state’s attorney from key figures and entities in the city, among them Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Tribune, which has devoted several articles to calling out the “indefensible” actions of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office.
In a column Thursday, the Tribune’s Eric Zorn makes the case that Foxx “will and should lose her job” over her office’s’ “spectacularly” bad handling of Smollett.
Justice in the Smollett case “demanded resolution and accountability,” writes Zorn, yet “Foxx appeared oblivious to this imperative as she made the media rounds attempting to explain why her office sent Smollett on his merry way Tuesday morning without extracting an admission of guilt or collecting a meaningful fine.”
In her much-criticized media appearances, Zorn writes, Foxx has made a series of “tone-deaf statements,” including trying to downplay the case by “equating Smollett to the raft of no-name, low-level, nonviolent offenders who have received the ‘go and sin no more’ treatment.”
“High-profile criminal cases are the lens through which the public sees and evaluates the administration of justice as a whole,” Zorn explains. Smollett’s extremely high-profile case required both the high-level attention of the police department and prosecutors. The police department held up their end, dedicating massive resources to the investigation. When the buck was passed to the state’s attorneys office, however, “They failed spectacularly.”
They failed in transparency, not even bothering to notify reporters, the police department, or the mayor of their decision to suddenly wipe clean Smollett’s record. They also didn’t bother getting a confession or apology out of Smollett, allowing the actor to immediately “preen for the cameras about his innocence” and his lawyers to gallingly declare Thursday: “It is the mayor and the police chief who owe Jussie — owe him an apology — for dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough.”
Foxx’s office dropped the charges despite making clear afterward that they had full confidence in the police investigation and do suspect that Smollett is guilty of staging a hoax hate crime against himself. (Read the full column here.)
After claiming that she had recused herself because she had personal contact with the Smollett family early on in the investigation, it was revealed this week that Foxx had not in fact officially stepped away from the case. “It turns out that, although Foxx claimed to have ‘recused’ herself from the Smollett case over concerns that she’d communicated with a member of Smollett’s family, she never made her recusal official. The term was used ‘colloquially’ rather than ‘legally,’ her office told Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass,” The Daily Wire noted Thursday.
Foxx had also been in contact with prominent Chicago attorney Tina Tchen, the former chief of staff of Michelle Obama, who talked with Foxx on the family’s behalf about trying to get the investigation out of the Chicago Police Department’s hands.