Prosecutors may have decided to drop their case against Jussie Smollett, but the “Empire” actor may still face other charges.
Chicago police have handed their investigation into the threatening letter Smollett received before the alleged Jan. 29 attack over to the FBI, a police spokesperson told Fox News. The United States Postal Service also confirmed the existence of an investigation into the letter, saying in a statement to the network that their organization is “working closely with our law enforcement partners on this investigation.”
Smollett, 36, received a threatening letter that used racist and homophobic language one week before he allegedly became the victim of a hate crime. Smollett initially told police that two men attacked him outside of a Subway shop, hitting him and using racist and homophobic slurs during the confrontation and leaving a noose around his neck. Smollett’s case seemed to unravel, however, as police initially failed to find footage of the alleged attack on any security cameras. Prosecutors charged Smollett with filing a false police report after police interviewed two brothers who worked with Smollett on “Empire,” who claimed that the actor paid them to stage the attack.
Smollett, 36, was cleared of all 16 counts on Tuesday, a move that has sparked immense backlash from local politicians and law enforcement. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel called the dropped charges a “whitewash of justice” and, later, an “abomination.”
“It makes no legal sense. It makes no common sense. And this is an abomination of my sense of justice,” he told CNN, according to Page Six.
However, the state’s attorney’s office are standing by the controversial move. Tandra Simonton, spokesperson for Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, said in a statement obtained by NBC News that Smollett’s case was handled the same way any other defendant’s would be.
“We did not exonerate Mr. Smollett,” Simonton said. “The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollett’s agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago. Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped. This outcome was met under the same criteria that would occur for and is available to any defendant with similar circumstances.”
Foxx recused herself from the case early on, with the office explaining then, in a brief statement, that the decision was made “to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” according to NBC News.
Tina Tchen, an attorney and former chief of staff for Michelle Obama, reached out to Foxx about the case mere days after the alleged Jan. 29 attack on behalf of the Smollett family, who were reportedly worried about details of the investigation being leaked to the press, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month. Following a conversation with a Smollett family member, Foxx then asked police to consider handing the case over to the FBI.
First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats, who was handed the case after Foxx recused herself, said Tuesday that Foxx’s previous conversations with the Smollett family did not effect their ultimate decision to drop the charges, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Magats also pressed that the charges being dropped did not mean that Smollett had been the victim of a crime, nor did it mean that there was anything wrong with the police investigation into the matter, according to the paper.
“We stand behind the CPD investigation done in this case, we stand behind the approval of charges in this case. They did a fantastic job,” he said. “The fact there was an alternative disposition in this case is not and should not be viewed as some kind of admission there was something wrong with the case, or something wrong with the investigation that the Chicago police did.”
A judge has sealed the case without providing any explanation to the public, according to the Chicago Tribune, leaving many questions unanswered.
Law enforcement officials seem widely displeased with the prosecution’s decision to drop the charges against Smollett. The Fraternal Order of Police, a Chicago-based organization, said in a statement to NBC News that they were “outraged” by the decision and again called for federal investigators to look into Foxx’s role in the case. (They previously called for an investigation into Foxx earlier this month.)
Chicago police seem similarly furious, with Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stating during a press conference Tuesday that he does not believe that justice was served, according to ABC News. Smollett owes the city of Chicago an apology, he reportedly suggested.
“At the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period,” he said. “I heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so America could know the truth, and they chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system.”
Smollett, for his part, has maintained his innocence throughout proceedings. Following news that the charges against him had been dropped, Smollett addressed reporters outside a courtroom following an emergency hearing, the Associated Press reports.
“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said.
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