A Chicago judge appointed a special prosecutor on Friday to investigate Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the investigation into Jussie Smollett’s alleged hoax hate crime.
Judge Michael Toomin said that Foxx’s unorthodox decision to drop all charges against Smollett absent an admission of guilt was within her authority, but suggested that her decision to hand the case over to her top deputy was improper.
The special prosecutor may end up bringing charges against Smollett in connection with the staged hate crime, Toomin said.
Former state appellate judge Sheila O’Brien petitioned for the appointment of a special prosecutor in April on the grounds that Foxx’s decision not to charge Smollett, despite what police claimed was overwhelming evidence of his guilt, created “a perception that justice was not served here, that Mr. Smollett received special treatment.”
Cook County officials have argued that the special prosecutor’s appointment is redundant since the county inspector general’s office is already looking into Foxx’s handling of the case and her decision to drop all pending charges in March, less than three weeks after Smollett was initially charged.
Foxx reached the decision not to prosecute Smollett roughly one month before announcing it publicly, according to court documents unsealed in April.
In her petition requesting a special prosecutor, O’Brien focused on Foxx’s claim to have recused herself.
Days after the alleged incident, Foxx announced that she had recused herself from the investigation due to public misperceptions that she had personal relationships with members of the Smollett family. Then, after text messages revealed that she continued weighing in on the case in conversations with her deputy after her recusal, Foxx admitted that she had not actually recused herself “in the legal sense” and instead had only used the term in colloquially.
Text messages released by Cook County in April also revealed that Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen, asked Foxx to persuade Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the case over to the FBI. Foxx complied with Tchen’s request, but Johnson ultimately refused to turn over the case.
Smollett will not appear on the upcoming season of Empire and his attorneys are currently being sued for defamation by the Osundairo brothers, who claim they were hired by Smollett to stage the attack.