Chicago’s top prosecutor asked the Cook County Inspector General on Friday to investigate how her office handled the Jussie Smollett case.
Kimberly Foxx called for the independent probe after she was raked over the coals for suddenly dropping all charges against the “Empire” actor just a week after he was indicted on 16 felony counts of filing a false police report.
“A former prosecutor, Inspector General (Patrick) Blanchard has been conducting independent inquiries for Cook County for over a decade,” Foxx said in a statement. “Ensuring that I and my office have the community’s trust and confidence is paramount to me, which is why I invited an independent review of this matter. I welcome this investigation and pledge my full cooperation and the cooperation of my office as IG Blanchard conducts his review.”
The Cook County Inspector General’s office is a watchdog for Cook County government looking to “detect, deter and prevent corruption, fraud, waste, mismanagement, unlawful political discrimination and misconduct,” according to the OIIG website.
Smollett alleged he was the victim of a hate crime, telling police on Jan. 29 that he had been beaten up by two masked men in the swanky Streeterville neighborhood while he was out getting food. The actor, who is gay and black, claimed his attackers hurled racist and homophobic slurs before punching him, putting a noose around his neck, and dousing him with what he said was bleach.
But soon police began to suspect that Smollett had made up the story.
Foxx recused herself from the racially charged case in February, before Smollett was charged, and handed it over to her deputy. At the time, a representative from her office said the recusal “was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”
But suspicions were raised that Smollett might get a sweetheart deal after The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Tina Tchen, a Chicago lawyer and former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, had put Foxx in touch with members of Smollett’s family days after he told police about the alleged attack.
Foxx found herself on the defensive after the charges against Smollett were dropped. The decision was ripped as a “whitewash” by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the local police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, asked the Department of Justice to investigate Foxx’s role in the decision to not prosecute Smollett.
Foxx’s spokeswoman Tandra Simonton insisted that the Smollett case was treated no differently from the more than 5,700 other “cases for alternative prosecution” that the office has handled in the past two years.
Later, Foxx herself said she played no role in the decision to drop all the charges and insisted he did not get special treatment from her office.
“Mr. Smollett was afforded the same opportunity that anyone in Cook County who had a nonviolent offense and the required background check would get,” Foxx told NBC Chicago. “I was not part of the charging decision.”