The Jussie Smollett saga is sure to go down as a black eye for the Chicago State’s Attorney’s office. Now, an organization that represents prosecutors around the country has stepped up to lay out exactly how Chicago State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office acted inappropriately in dismissing the case against Smollett, who is alleged to have orchestrated a fake hate crime against himself.
The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) released a statement Wednesday detailing the prosecutorial misdeeds that occurred in Chicago.
“Prosecutors don’t always get it right, nor does the public necessarily get to see all the information available to prosecutors, particularly during an ongoing investigation,” the NDAA wrote. “In these types of circumstances, it is easy for emotions to run high and finger pointing to ensue, but it is important not to allow investigations and charging decisions to be swayed by public sentiment and to follow best practices and guidelines in whatever situation may arise.”
The organization then laid out four problems with the way the Smollett case was handled.
1. The Recusal
Foxx recused herself from the case, and her entire office should have also recused. The NDAA stated that the recusal does not just apply to the chief prosecutor. “This is consistent with best practices for prosecutors’ offices around the country,” the NDAA wrote.
2. The Outside Interference
Foxx changed the trajectory of the case when Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff reached out and requested the investigation be handed over to the FBI and Foxx obliged. As the NDAA warned, “prosecutors should not take advice from politically connected friends of the accused.” Further, the organization stated that the goal of each case should be “justice for victims while protecting the rights of the defendant.” (Author’s note: I would actually disagree with this statement, as not every accuser is a victim. Sometimes the defendant is the victim.)
3. The Shocking Dismissal
Foxx’s office dismissed the 17 felony charges against Smollett because he had already done community service and because he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond. This, the NDAA said, should not have been done without “an acknowledgement of culpability on the part of the defendant.”
Indeed, Smollett and his attorneys have been allowed to claim they are now vindicated and are the real victims in the case.
4. The Disappearing Of The Case
When Foxx’s office announced the shocking dismissal, it also sent an order to seal files related to the case. It then had to send a second order making sure the first order applied to Chicago’s police department, which had released case files as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The case was then “wiped” from the Cook County Clerk’s Office database, as if it had never happened.
“[E]xpunging Mr. Smollett’s record at this immediate stage is counter to transparency. Law enforcement will now not be able to acknowledge that Mr. Smollett was indicted and charged with these horrible crimes and the full record of what occurred will be forever hidden from public view,” the NDAA wrote.
The organization also added an obligatory line about prosecuting hate crimes and not raising the burden of proof because of “the misguided decisions of others.”
The NDAA also said that it believes in alternatives to incarceration, but that such alternatives should come with an admission of guilt.
“[T]he case in Chicago illustrates a point that must be discussed in an effort to ensure fairness in our criminal justice system: the rich are treated differently, the politically connected receive favorable treatment, and Lady Justice sometimes peeks under her blindfold to see who stands before her,” the organization wrote.