New Chicago Mayor Vows to Investigate Decision to Drop Smollett Charges

POLITICS & POLICY
Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, March 26, 2019. (File photo: Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Newly elected Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed Wednesday to investigate why the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped all charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett despite the “compelling” evidence that suggests he staged a hate crime against himself to further his own career.

“The state’s attorney’s office here which made the decision unilaterally to drop the charges has to give a much more fulsome explanation,” Lightfoot said Wednesday on MSNBC. “We cannot create the perception that if you’re rich or famous or both that you got one set of justice and for everybody else, it’s something much harsher. That won’t do, and we need to make sure that we have a criminal justice system that has integrity. The state’s attorney’s office has to provide more information about the rationale for the decision to drop the charges.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx last month dropped all 17 charges that were brought against Smollett in February after police determined he’d hired two friends to stage a racist, homophobic, politically motivated attack against him. Foxx’s office, in explaining the decision, cited Smollett’s record of community service and the fact that no one was physically harmed in the commission of the alleged crime.

Smollett was indicted on obstruction of justice charges by a grand jury after two brothers, one of whom worked on Empire with him, confessed to helping him stage the attack for pay. Their confessions were bolstered by surveillance video of the two men buying the items used in the attack, as well as the recovery of a check they say Smollett gave them in exchange for their services.

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“I saw . . . a very compelling case, with videotapes, witness statements, and other information that looked like he had staged a hoax,” Lightfoot said of the existing evidence. “And if that happens, he’s got to be held accountable.”

Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel lashed out at Foxx’s office after the charges were dropped, calling the decision a “whitewash of justice” that furthered the perception that the rich and famous are immune from prosecution.

While Smollett did surrender his $10,000 bond as part of the agreement that led to his charges being dropped, he has refused to pay the $130,000 bill presented to him by the Chicago Department of Law for the police-overtime hours expended in investigating his case.

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has called for a federal investigation into Foxx’s handling of the case, citing her documented attempts to convince police superintendent Eddie Johnson to hand over the investigation to the FBI at the behest of one of Smollett’s relatives.

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