The astonishing action by Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx to drop 16 felony charges against actor Jussie Smollett leaves so many unanswered questions that justice should have required that the facts be determined by a jury.
But now that Foxx has deep-sixed the case and Cook County Circuit Judge Steven Watkins has inexplicably sealed the case file, we will never know. A city that put out millions of dollars to investigate Smollett's claim that he was attacked for being attacked by two men, waiting in sub-zero cold after midnight, will be denied a judgment that it deserves.
And politicians wonder why they aren't trusted. The whole case smells like a backroom deal having all the markings of the Chicago Way in which the influential get special treatment.
It is especially so because Foxx's office issued a statement that explains nothing. That suspicion of Foxx's action is founded on several reasons, not the least being, as the Tribune reported:
It is an account of how Foxx was contacted in the Smollett case by a politically connected lawyer close to Chicago’s most prominent political families, the Obamas and Emanuels.
That lawyer, Tina Tchen, was chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama, and she is a friend of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s wife, Amy Rule. Tchen was apparently a go-between for someone in the Smollett family.
And there's how Foxx initially wanted to dodge doing her duty by trying to hand off the case to the FBI. (Now that sounds like a great idea, seeing as how the handling of the case has been, err, somewhat suspicious.")
In the past I have always taken the position that I shouldn't substitute my opinion for that of a trial by judge or jury, such as in the acquittal of O.J. Simpson. But that doesn't apply here because
for highly questionable or unanswered reasons, the case never reached the stage where the facts are laid out for all to see.
All we have from Foxx is a glib statement:
After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.
An impact on the mayor race?
Who knows, this decision might also have an impact on the Chicago mayoral election. Kim Foxx is Cook County Board President and mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle's protege. Preckwinkle rushed to Foxx's defense when Foxx, inappropriately, tried to persuade Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to transfer the investigation to the FBI.
Will black voters regard Foxx, and by implication Preckwinkle, as heroes for getting Smollett off the hook? Will the good government types, North Side progressives and Chicago police supporters find all the more reason to vote for Preckwinkle's opponent, Lori Lightfoot?
UPDATE: Chicago Police Superintendent "furious"
A rep for the Chicago Police told Fox News that Johnson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hold a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon about the case.
UPDATE: My question from a month ago: "Will Democrats here have the guts to charge Jussie Smollett with a felony?" It was not far off. The grand jury returned an indictment but in a highly unusual, yet-to-be-explained move, prosecutors just a few weeks later refused to prosecute.
UPDATE: "[Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel calls dropping charges against Jussie Smollett a ‘whitewash of justice" In same story: Chicago Cops: "It's a kid in the guts."
UPDATE: Prosecutor: Smollett not exonerated. The New York Times reports:
In an interview later, Joe Magats, the prosecutor who made the decision, said that there had been no problems with the evidence or the police investigation into Mr. Smollett. Mr. Magats said he dropped the charges after Mr. Smollett agreed to the community service and to give up the $10,000 he paid for his release, money that would have been returned to him if he had made all his court appearances. He also noted that Mr. Smollett had no previous criminal record and said that the dropping of the charges “didn’t exonerate him.
So, we are to assume that Smallett's claim that he's been proven right isn't true?
This is a breaking story that I try to update as it moves along. And as we Foxx to clarify and explain her decision.