Chicago prosecutors release Jussie Smollett investigation texts and emails

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

(CHICAGO) — Twenty-two days after the Cook County, Illinois prosecutor unexpectedly dropped all charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging that January hate crime attack against himself, officials late Tuesday made public thousands of texts and emails about the investigation.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by ABC News, the Cook County State’s Attorney Office released a total of 178 pages of text messages and 3,655 pages of emails, which include conversations between employees of the State’s Attorney Office, as well as their correspondence with the media.  Some of the correspondence is redacted due to the court order sealing Smollett’s criminal case.

The documents provide some context for why all 16 felony counts against Smollett were dismissed March 26, and also reveal that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was still communicating with her office about the case, even though she’d recused herself from it.

For example, a March 8 text to an unknown person from Foxx, who by then had recused herself from the investigation, made it clear she felt Smollett had been overcharged for his alleged crimes. 

“So…..I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases… 16 counts on a class 4 [felony] becomes exhibit A,” wrote Foxx, who then compared Smollett’s charges to those her office brought against R&B singer R. Kelly.

“Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts,” texted Foxx, referring to Kelly. “Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16. 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.”

“It’s not who we want to be,” Foxx texted.

On the day it was revealed the charges had been dropped, Foxx texted another unknown person, writing that Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had contacted her office for guidance on what to tell the press.  Foxx said she’d told him that the decision to drop the charges was “essentially deferred prosecution,” and that Johnson “seemed satisfied with the explanation.” 

On the contrary, Johnson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel immediately condemned the decision, with Emanuel describing it in a joint press conference with Johnson as a “whitewash of justice.”

A statement from Foxx, released late Tuesday in response to the release of the texts and emails, declared:

“After the indictment became public, I reached out to [Smollett prosecutor] Joe [Magats] to discuss reviewing office policies to assure consistencies in our charging and our use of appropriate charging authority. I was elected to bring criminal justice reform and that includes intentionality, consistency, and discretion. I will continue to uphold these guiding principles.”

Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury March 8 on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report in connection with the alleged January 29 attack, which investigators say he staged.  Smollett has insisted throughout the investigation that the attack was not staged.

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