The Cook County State’s Attorney whose office was tasked with handling the prosecution of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett at one point referred to him as a “washed up celeb who lied to cops” yet argued that he was being charged with an excessive amount of felonies.
In text messages obtained by Variety, Kim Foxx wrote to one of her associates on March 8, just after Smollett had been indicted on 16 felony counts, “Sooo…I’m recused. But when people accuse us of overcharging cases … 16 counts on a class 4 becomes exhibit A.”
The associate answered, “Yes. I can see where that can be seen as excessive.”
“Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16,” Foxx added, apparently comparing the charges to those faced by singer R. Kelly. Then, she wrote, “On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally. Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.”
“Agreed,” the associate answered.
Smollett had faced the felony charges after a grand jury indictment on claims that he had staged a hate crime attack in Chicago in January. But on March 26, just weeks after the indictment, the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped the charges. In exchange, Smollett forfeited a $10,000 bond and agreed to community service.
Foxx had recused herself from the case in February after she had communications with one of Smollett’s relatives.
The text messages were revealed in a trove of text messages and emails released on Tuesday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. But the States Attorney exempted many records from disclosure, citing privileged communications and the sealing of the court file after the charges were dropped.
The decision to drop the charges triggered harsh criticism from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Last week the city of Chicago sued Smollett for more than $130,000 in costs to cover the investigation.
Smollett has insisted that he told the truth about the attack. He claimed that on Jan. 29, two attackers struck him, shouted “MAGA Country” and wrapped a noose around his neck.
Many of the text messages and emails released detail how the State’s Attorneys office responded to the furor after the charges were dropped and defended their decision by releasing data on other cases.
Joseph Magats, the First Assistant in the State’s Attorney’s office, ultimately made the decision not to prosecute the case. He told the CBS Chicago station that he did not believe that Smollett was innocent but “based on all facts and circumstances of the case, and also keeping in mind resources and keeping in mind that the office’s number one priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence, I decided to offer this disposition in the case.”