Trump says feds will review Jussie Smollett case after local charges were dropped
President Donald Trump said the FBI and the Department of Justice will review the Jussie Smollett case.
A prosecutor unexpectedly dropped all charges Tuesday against the “Empire” actor, who was accused of staging an assault on himself — leading Chicago police to investigate it as a possible hate crime.
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “It is an embarrassment to our nation!”
When asked about Trump’s tweet Thursday morning, the DOJ declined to comment. CNN is also reaching out to the FBI.
The case began when Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two men attacked him on January 29 and yelled racist and homophobic slurs while striking him, police said. Smollett said the incident ended with a noose placed around his neck and bleach poured on him, police said.
Chicago police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime. They later said they believed the attack was staged by Smollett to bolster his profile and career.
“It’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period,” Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
Smollett faced 16 felony disorderly conduct charges. But those charges were suddenly dropped after the actor forfeited his bail money and did community service. The prosecutor, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats, said thousands of cases have similar resolutions.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that if Smollett were not an actor with influence, he would have been held to a different standard.
And Republican State Representative Michael McAuliffe released a statement on Tuesday announcing plans to introduce legislation this week to prohibit any production with Smollett from receiving the Illinois Film Tax Credit.
“A lot of valuable Chicago Police Department (CPD) man hours and resources were wasted chasing down a bogus crime arranged by Smollett,” McAuliffe said in the statement. “He has cost Chicago a lot more than a $10,000 bond. Smollett should not be able to get anything more from the City of Chicago or Illinois.”
The Chicago police union has called for a federal investigation into Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to evaluate her involvement in the case.
Foxx had recused herself from the case a week before charges were filed because of familiarity with a potential witness, a spokeswoman for her office said.
Meanwhile, Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, has accused the Chicago Police Department of running a “smear campaign” against her client.
“We are disappointed the local authorities have continued their campaign against Jussie Smollett after the charges against him have been dropped. The facts are clear,” Holmes said in a statement.
“The case is closed. No public official has the right to violate Mr. Smollett’s due process rights.”
CPD said it was told not to release reports
The court’s decision to seal the records in the case angered many observers.
Chicago police released part of their investigative reports Wednesday and said there will be no more information to come.
The 61 pages were released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the media. They do not appear to offer many major revelations about what investigators allege was Smollett’s hoax.
They do, however, shed light on investigators’ interactions with the brothers who, investigators say, helped stage the attack.
After the documents were made public, the police department was “then advised of a court order prohibiting such release,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted.
The state’s attorney defends dropping charges …
Although the charges against Smollett were dropped, Foxx told CNN affiliate WLS that she was confident her office could have proved him guilty.
But Foxx said a guilty verdict probably wouldn’t have led to harsher consequences for the actor.
“If he’s found guilty on a Class 4 (felony), the likelihood was he was going to get some type of, perhaps, restitution, community service — not prison,” she told WLS. “And so if we can get to the same outcomes, if we get to the same measures of justice without going through the court process, we do that.”
For example, prosecutors frequently offer to drop drug possession charges if defendants agree to treatment and meetings, she said.
Foxx told WLS she understands some believe Smollett got special treatment because of his celebrity status. She said the onus was on her office to explain that resolutions Smollett’s are also available to “someone from the neighborhood.”
… but other District Attorneys criticize the decision
In response to Smollett’s case, the National District Attorneys Association released a statement on best prosecutorial practices in high profile cases.
It said recusals of chief prosecutors should apply to the entire office; that prosecutors should not take advice from politically active friends of the accused; that alternative prosecution should include the defendant admitting culpability; and that Smollett’s record should not have been expunged immediately for the sake of transparency.
“Finally, we believe strongly that hate crimes should be prosecuted vigorously but the burden of proof should not be artificially increased due to the misguided decisions of others,” the statement said.