Special Prosecutor Finds ‘Abuses of Discretion’ but No Criminal Wrongdoing by Chicago Prosecutors in Jussie Smollett Case

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Ill., March 26, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb concluded Monday that Chicago prosecutors committed “substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures” in their handling of the case against actor Jussie Smollett last year but are not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.

According to a news release in which Webb announced the conclusion of his investigation, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made false statements about the case against the former “Empire” actor and continued to be involved in the prosecution even after she had publicly recused herself.

The special prosecutor’s report also said that Foxx made misleading statements about her contacts with Smollett’s sister, Jurnee Smollett. Foxx continued to communicate with Smollett’s sister for five days after learning that Smollett was a suspect in a Chicago police investigation despite stating that she had stopped communicating with his family after receiving that information, Webb’s report said.

However, Webb said he found nothing supporting criminal charges against Foxx or those in her office, and no third party influenced decisions about the case.

Smollett, who is a gay African-American, told police last year that two men attacked him as he was walking home around 2a.m. on January 29, 2019, punching him and putting a noose around his neck while shouting, “this is MAGA country,” along with racist and anti-gay slurs.

Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson later announced that Smollett had hired two acquaintances of his, brothers from Nigeria, to stage the attack in order to raise his public profile. The brothers later sued Smollett’s attorneys for defamation, saying the actor, whom they worked with on “Empire” had “directed every aspect of the attack,” including throwing a chemical substance on him.

In February, Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on sixteen charges, including a felony charge for filing a false police report, after evidence from an investigation suggested he had in fact staged the attack in an attempt to boost his career.

However, all charges against Smollett were abruptly dropped a month after he was charged and his record wiped clean, sparking a public outcry. Prosecutors gave Webb’s team “significantly and meaningfully divergent explanations for how the resolution was reached.”

A Chicago judge appointed Webb as special prosecutor to probe how local officials handled the case against Smollett, and in February, Webb indicted Smollett on charges related to the accusations that the actor paid two acquaintances to stage an anti-gay and racist attack on him.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying it “categorically rejects” Webb’s team’s “characterizations of its exercises of prosecutorial discretion and private or public statements as ‘abuses of discretion’ or false statements to the public. While the release does not say so, any implication that statements made by the CCSAO were deliberately inaccurate is untrue.”

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