Cook County (Ill.) State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did not “formally” recuse herself from the Jussie Smollett case, her office said in a statement Thursday, explaining that Foxx used the term "recuse" in a "colloquial" sense rather than a legal sense when she left the case in February.
The statement was the latest twist in the saga centering around Smollett, the "Empire" actor whom Foxx's office decided not to prosecute Tuesday in a stunning reversal after Smollett faced a 16-count indictment for allegedly staging an assault against himself in January.
Foxx announced Feb. 19 that she was leaving the case, clarifying later that her decision stemmed from her contact with a relative of Smollett. But Thursday's statement said Foxx's decision was not based "on any actual conflict of interest," implying that Foxx was concerned about the appearance of a conflict.
“Instead, in an abundance of caution, she informally separated herself from the decision-making over the case and left it to her First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats, a 29-year veteran prosecutor," the statement added. "Although we used the term ‘recuse’ as it relates to State’s Attorney Foxx’s involvement in this matter, it was a colloquial use of the term rather than in its legal sense.”
Shortly after the alleged attack on Jan. 29, Tina Tchen, a Smollett family friend, reached out to Foxx about concerns relating to leaks from the police department to the media, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Foxx later exchanged text messages with a Smollett relative, which ultimately led to her announced decision to step away from the case.
On Wednesday, Fox News obtained an internal email from Foxx's office that asked assistant state's attorneys to dig for any examples to bolster Foxx’s claim that the dropped charges in the Smollett case weren’t as uncommon or shocking as they seemed.
Earlier Thursday, Fox News learned that the City of Chicago delivered a letter to Smollett's legal team, seeking reimbursement for $130,000 in costs related to the investigation. The dropping of all charges against Smollett had prompted backlash from Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the decision a “whitewash of justice.”
President Trump also weighed in on the controversy Thursday, announcing that the FBI and Justice Department would review the case. On Twitter, he called it “an embarrassment to our nation.”
Smollett claimed he was attacked by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs. The star also said they poured bleach on him and placed a rope around his neck before yelling, “This is MAGA country!”
Though the case was initially opened as a possible hate crime, it quickly unraveled as evidence prompted investigators to suspect that Smollett had staged the attack. Smollett, however, maintains his innocence.