Jussie Smollett update: Special prosecutor finds 'abuses of discretion' in Kim Foxx's handling of 'Empire' actor's case

Webb did not find evidence to support criminal charges against Foxx or anyone in her office

ByLeah Hope and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb said none of his findings rise to the level of criminal charges against Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx or anyone in her office.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Special Prosecutor Dan Webb has released his report Monday into the Jussie Smollett's case and its handling by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx.

The report said it found evidence of "substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures" on the part of Foxx's office "in prosecuting and resolving the initial Smollett case."

It also said actions by Foxx and other attorneys in her office "may rise to the level of a violation of legal ethics by State's Attorney Foxx and CCSAO lawyers relating to false and/or misleading public statements made about the prosecution or resolution of the initial Smollett case."

However, Webb said he did not find evidence that would support criminal charges against Foxx or anyone working in her office. Webb also found there was no third party influence in any decision making.

READ: Summary of Special Prosecutor Dan Webb's report into handling of Jussie Smollett case

The report says Foxx made false statements about the case and continued to be involved after she had publicly recused herself.

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Webb said in his report that after she made her recusal, Foxx and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office came to the realization that the decision to appoint her assistant Joseph Magats as "Acting State's Attorney" was "legally defective."

Webb said Foxx needed to, "recuse the entire CCSAO and petition the court to appoint a special prosecutor. Instead of implementing the proper legal course to carry out the recusal once this defect was brought to their attention, the CCSAO and State's Attorney Foxx made the decision to ignore this major legal defect seemingly because they did not want to admit that they had made such a major mistake of judgment regarding State's Attorney Foxx's recusal."

The report also said that Foxx made misleading statements on her communications with Jussie Smollett's sister, Jurnee Smollett. Webb said Foxx learned by February 8, 2019 that Jussie Smollett was a suspect in a Chicago police investigation, but continued communicating with his sister Jurnee through February 13, including five text messages and three phone calls.

Webb said Foxx made statements that she stopped communicating with Jussie Smollett's family upon learning he was a suspect.

In response to the report, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office issued a statement saying, "This report puts to rest any implications of outside influence or criminal activity on the part of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office (CCSAO) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD). As the report unequivocally confirms, State's Attorney Foxx was not involved in the decision-making process regarding the Jussie Smollett case at any point and there was no outside influence on that process.

"The CCSAO categorically rejects the OSP'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. As a result of the issues addressed in the press release, and of discussions of them beforehand, the CCSAO has already made a number of changes to its operations, including the hiring of a new CCSAO ethics officer and more separation of their function from the administration of the office, and strengthening the recusal plan with clear guidelines and explicit definitions of conflicts of interest.

"When the CCSAO receives the final written report from Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, the CCSAO will provide a written response. Until that time, there will be no further statements on this matter."

Last year the former "Empire" actor told police he was targeted in a racist and homophobic attack. After an investigation, police determined Smollett staged the attack and hired two brothers to help pull it off.

WATCH: Video shows Jussie Smollett with rope around his neck

Chicago police have released nearly 70 hours of video in the Jussie Smollett case.

Police said Smollett staged the attack on himself because he was unhappy with his "Empire" salary.

Last year, Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct and weeks later, Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx's office dismissed the case.

Webb was then appointed in August to look into the case, and the way it was handled by Foxx.

Last February, Smollett appeared in court to plead 'not guilty after a grand jury returned a new six-count indictment.

Judge Pat O'Brien, who is a Republican running against Foxx for Cook County State's Attorney in November, issued a statement saying, "This report makes it crystal clear that Kim Foxx engaged in a substantial abuse of discretion by making false statements to the public about this case, breaching the State's Attorney's ethical obligations of honesty and transparency, In light of this report and so many other ethical lapses, Kim Foxx should resign from office."

Smollett's lawyer Mark Geragos also issued a statement, saying, "This so called "report" on Kim Foxx and the timing of the recharging of Jussie reveals the real political electoral motivation of Dan Webb and his cohorts. It's a blatant attempt to take down a black, progressive, female prosecutor who does not fit within the white power structure. Jussie, a black, gay man who maintains his innocence, continues to be used as a pawn. Today's report confirms what the defense has said all along-there was no wrongdoing or undue influence by Jussie or the defense in the dismissal of all charges against him and the second wave of charges is a blatant constitutional violation."


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