The Chicago prosecutor whose office dismissed charged against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, defended the decision on Saturday, saying Smollett was treated no differently than thousands of other defendants whose charges were similarly dropped since she took office.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made the comments during a defiant and emotional address at the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow Push Coalition.
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Foxx openly wondered if her race had something to do with the harsh criticism she’s faced since her office announced that charges against Smollett had been dropped. The actor was accused of staging what he claimed to be a racist and homophobic attack in January.
“I have been asking myself for the last two weeks what is this really about,” she said. “As someone who has lived in this city, who came up in the projects of this city to serve as the first African American woman in this role, it is disheartening to me … that when we get in these positions somehow the goalposts change.”
She continued: “This is personal.”
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Foxx, who recused herself from the case after she communicating with a Smollett relative during the probe, reiterated that she welcomes of an independent investigation into the way she and her office handled the case.
She also reminded the audience that her office did the same thing for the nearly 6,000 low-level defendants who had their charges dropped with “deferred prosecution” during her tenure.
“The efforts that I’ve had on criminal-justice reform, that were once celebrated by many in this county, are now being attacked because of one case and one celebrity,” she said. “I cannot run an office that is driven by anger and public sentiment.”
WATCH BELOW: The latest on Jussie Smollett
Further, she said that under the law, Smollett could be fined a maximum of $10,000 and that the actor did pay that amount because his $10,000 bond was forfeited.
But Foxx did not address specifics of the case, or the criticism leveled by legal experts and others who said it was highly unusual not to require an admission of guilt by Smollett, particularly since at the time they dropped charges, prosecutors said they believed they could have proven the charges against the actor.
“In my 48 years of practice, I certainly have never seen a deferred prosecution done like that,” Richard Kling, an IIT-Kent Law School professor told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
Foxx also responded to the calls by various critics to resign, saying that she will complete her term that ends next year and has plans to run for re-election.