Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx slammed the legal team behind the criminal prosecution of Jussie Smollett, writing in an op-ed that the "justice system failed" just hours after the disgraced Hollywood star was sentenced to jail time for his hate crimes hoax conviction.
"At its best, our justice system should make people safer, hold accountable those who seek to harm others and earn the trust of its citizenry. At its worst, the system can be easily manipulated in furtherance of thinly veiled political agendas," Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx wrote in an opinion piece published in the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday evening. "On Thursday, the damaging, costly, and disingenuous criminal prosecution of Jussie Smollett came to an end."
She added: "Smollett was indicted, tried and convicted by a kangaroo prosecution in a matter of months. Meanwhile, the families of more than 50 Black women murdered in Chicago over the last 20 years await justice."
Smollett, now 39, told Chicago Police on Jan. 29, 2019 that he was attacked by two masked men, whom he believed were White, in the city’s downtown area at about 2 a.m. He alleged that the pair placed a rope around his neck, poured some "unknown substance" on him and made homophobic and racist comments. The Black man, who is gay, reportedly claimed they said, "This is MAGA country" during the confrontation.
Unable to find video of the attack and amid conflicting reports regarding the events, police released images showing persons of interest one day later, the two people whom they sought for questioning. Meanwhile, celebrities, public officials and civil rights activists flooded social media with messages of support for Smollett.
Police later questioned two men – but then released them without filing charges, and announced they wanted to re-interview Smollett.
On Feb. 20, 2019, prosecutors accused Smollett of filing a false report and charged him with felony disorderly conduct after police obtained evidence that Smollett paid the two men – brothers – to help him fake the attack, officials said at the time. In March 2019, the Cook County grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of falsely reporting an offense, but the charges were dropped weeks later.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb was later tapped to investigate, and a grand jury ultimately returned a six-count indictment.
Smollett pleaded not guilty and went to trial in November and December 2021. He testified for hours before a jury convicted him on five of the six counts.
He was sentenced on Thursday to 150 days in the Cook County Jail, 30 months of felony probation, and ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution. As he was being led out of court after his sentencing, he shouted that he was "innocent" and "not suicidal."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lauded the sentence, saying in a statement that the city "feels vindicated in today’s ruling."
"The criminal conviction of Jussie Smollett by a jury of his peers and today’s sentencing should send a clear message to everyone in the City of Chicago that false claims and allegations will not be tolerated," she wrote. "The malicious and wholly fabricated claim made by Mr. Smollett resulted in over 1500 hours of police work that cost the City over $130,000 in police overtime."
Foxx, who has served as state’s attorney since 2016, is no stranger to the Smollett case. Foxx and her office first prosecuted the former "Empire" actor in 2019, after the allegations arose. She then recused herself from the case in February 2019, before the actor was ever charged, citing discussions between her and one of Smollett’s relatives.
In December 2021, Special Prosecutor Webb – who prosecuted Smollett in his recent trial – chose not to pursue criminal charges against Foxx, but alleged she and her office violated legal ethics and made false statements regarding the investigation.
Foxx further defended herself and her office and pointed the blame elsewhere in Thursday’s oped, writing that the case "was treated like no other" because of near-immediate leaks to the media and a former top cop’s television news appearance "to discuss the evidence and Mr. Smollett’s assumed guilt prior to formal charges being filed."
"Given the reputational price Smollett paid, the $10,000 bond we held, and the fact that he’d never been accused of a violent crime, my office made the decision not to further pursue a criminal conviction," she wrote. "This story should have ended there, as thousands upon thousands of non-prosecuted cases do every day."
"Instead, taxpayers have since spent millions of dollars for the criminal prosecution of a hoax," she went on. "Rather than working collaboratively to stem rising crime or free the wrongly convicted, a small group of people hijacked the judicial system to enact what is best described as mob justice."
Speaking about Webb’s report, she wrote: "Predictably, the probe found no criminal wrongdoing and still un-ironically accused me of "abuses of discretion." It’s a playbook: attack and marginalize anyone fighting to create a more just system, one that recognizes the rule of law."
Foxx went on to describe how the mob against Smollett was "relentless, organized and effective."
"A judge appointed a special prosecutor with an unlimited budget to reopen the investigation into a nonviolent Hollywood actor, a complete disregard for the discretion that prosecutors must have to be effective and independent," she wrote. "As a former prosecutor, Dan Webb knows that prosecutors have that power, and more importantly, knows there is no "abuse of discretion" standard. In fact, the Supreme Court has recognized the "wide discretion" of prosecutors, and that courts should defer to the original prosecutorial decision. Webb knows this, and could refer to his friend Bill Barr’s own remarks."
She added: "Just because we do not like the outcome should not mean we bully prosecutors and circumvent the judicial process to get it changed."
Fox News' Madelin Fuerste and Matt Finn contributed to this report.