Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx defended the surprise decision of prosecutors to drop all charges against Empire star Jussie Smollett, saying that the disorderly conduct case didn’t warrant more aggressive prosecution.
“We deal with a lot of things in this city in this county, not the least of which is a homicide rate that outpaces other major cities, shootings that outpace other major cities, sexual assault, sexual violence, domestic violence,” Foxx told Chicago’s public radio station, WEBZ. “And it is not to diminish that what Mr. Smollett was alleged to have done did have an impact on people who are actual victims of hate crime, did have an impact on how people perceived our city.”
But, she added, Smollett was charged with Class 4 felonies, the lowest class of felony crime in Illinois. Smollett also did not have a criminal record.
“For people who do this work every day, who recognize what the charges are—this is a Class 4 felony— for people who are in the weeds of this, we recognize that the likelihood that someone would get a prison sentence for a Class 4 felony is slim,” she added.
Prosecutors have faced widespread criticism since they announced their decision to drop all 16 felony charges against Smollett for allegedly staging a hate crime in Chicago this January. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson have been vocal about their belief that Smollett deserved to face tougher consequences. After learning of the prosecutors’ actions on Tuesday, Emmanel described the decision as a “whitewash of justice.”
In a series of interviews with Chicago media on Wednesday, Foxx argued that Smollett’s case was handled in the same way similar lower-profile cases would have been handled. She seemed to echo earlier statements by her office affirming that Smollett had not been exonerated, noting that Smollett forfeited his $10,000 bail and completed community service.
“I think when people see this one particular case, it feels like an outlier, where in fact it’s consistent with how we treat people charged with similar offenses with the same background,” Foxx said in an interview with NBC 5 Chicago.
Foxx explained her decision to recuse herself from the case, explaining that she had been in contact Smollett’s family, and didn’t want her impartiality to be called into question. Other Cook County prosecutors at Foxx’s office handled the prosecution and made the decision to drop the charges.
“It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case,” she said. “At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was a victim.”
Foxx also seemed to dismiss the anger from Chicago police, who said they were not involved of the decision to drop the charges.
“[The police] worked very diligently on this case and that this was not a question about their abilities,” said Foxx. “But every single day on cases that law enforcement partners work diligently on, there are people who get similar arrangements, people who get diversion, people who get sentences that are probably not what some people would want.”
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