Will the Jussie Smollett case ever end?
A Chicago judge Friday ordered that a special prosecutor be appointed to look into how Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office decided to drop all 16 felony disorderly conduct charges against the actor over allegations he staged a homophobic and racist attack against himself in the city earlier this year.
It’s the latest chapter in a
soap opera case that just won’t seem to go away, and Foxx, who happens to be African American, may just have a point when she questions whether her being black has anything to do with all this extra scrutiny in a case that—barring the celebrity of the defendant—basically involved charges that someone filed a false police report.
(For further proof, one may look no further than the fact that Donald Trump himself actually wanted the feds to review the case—not on behalf of Smollett as possible victim, but because of how “outrageous” the case was, maybe because Smollett claimed his attackers invoked Trump’s beloved “MAGA” slogan during the alleged beatdown? Go figure.)
In any case, as the Associated Press explains with regard to Foxx and a judge’s decision to now appoint a special prosecutor:
Foxx has been under fire for her handling [of] the investigation, including from the Chicago Police Department and the former mayor. Her office charged Smollett with 16 counts of disorderly conduct after police concluded that Smollett had staged the early-morning Jan. 29 attack on himself and had paid two acquaintances to help him pull it off. But it stunningly dropped all of the charges weeks later, prompting an outcry from police and leading a former state appellate judge, Sheila O’Brien, to call for a special prosecutor.
Foxx has defended her handling of the case and said Smollett was treated no differently than thousands of other defendants in low-level cases whose charges have been similarly dropped since she took office. And Foxx, who has publicly wondered if her being black has anything to do with the criticism she has received, said she would welcome an independent investigation. But her office opposed such a special prosecutor, explaining that the investigation would just duplicate the efforts of a county inspector general’s office probe that is already underway.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in his ruling Friday disagreed. He said it was fine for Foxx to recuse herself from the case after being approached by a relative of Smollett. But the judge said Foxx erred in appointing a top deputy to handle the case in her stead, saying that she should have requested that a special prosecutor be appointed, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The judge continued, per the Tribune:
With the deputy holding no real authority, the Smollett case made its way through the court system without a prosecutor at the helm, the veteran judge said.
“There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it floundered through uncharted waters, and it ultimately lost its bearings,” Toomin wrote in the 21-page opinion. “... The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
The judge’s ruling, in addition to making Foxx look bad as she heads into a reelection campaign next year, also puts Smollett back in legal jeopardy. A special prosecutor could decide to recharge the now-former Empire star, the Tribune notes.
Smollett still faces a civil lawsuit sought by the city of Chicago, which is demanding he pay up for the amount of money and time Chicago law enforcement spent investigating what they say was a bogus case.
Correction: Saturday, June 22, 2019, 12:45 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the charges against Smollett. His charges are felonies and the story has been updated to reflect the change.