AP

Smollett case tests relationship between police, prosecutors

Mar 30, 2019, 9:30 AM
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, right, speaks at a...
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, right, speaks at a news conference as Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson listens in Chicago. The outrage was swift and overwhelming: How could prosecutors in Chicago drop charges against former "Empire" cast member Jussie Smollett for allegedly orchestrating a fake attack and allow him to wipe his record clean without so much as an apology? But for all of the public outrage, the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State's Attorney's Office insist their relationship is strong, even if they didn't agree on the outcome in Smollett's case. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — When prosecutors dropped the charges that accused Jussie Smollett of orchestrating a fake attack, the outrage was swift and overwhelming. Smollett saw his record wiped clean without offering so much as an apology.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision as a “whitewash of justice” and billed Smollett $130,000 for the cost of the police investigation. President Donald Trump called it a “national embarrassment” and promised a federal probe. The Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association said it was “an affront” to prosecutors across the state.

But for all of the public fury, the two agencies that handled the case — the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office — insist their relationship is strong, even if they didn’t agree on the outcome.

“I’ve heard people saying the relationship is broken and fractured, but that is absolutely, patently false,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “This is like a marriage, and these relationships need work. But at the end of the day, we all at heart are crime fighters.”

The person who has taken the most heat for the decision is State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who was elected in 2016 on a promise to reform an office that many believed was too quick to help police put minorities in prison. She said she recused herself from Smollett’s case before he was charged because she had spoken with a Smollett family member when he was still considered a victim.

Even so, she defended the decision of her top assistant to drop the charges in exchange for Smollett’s agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bail payment.

She said Smollett never would have gone to prison because the 16 charges were the lowest possible form of felony, “a step up from a misdemeanor,” and prosecutors needed to focus their resources on violent crime. She said Smollett was offered the same deal as many other defendants who don’t have a criminal record.

Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed he was attacked and beaten by two masked men who shouted slurs and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Smollett also said the men doused him with a chemical and put a noose around his neck.

Police worked for weeks to unravel the case, eventually concluding that Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the Jan. 29 attack because he hoped it would promote his career.

Prosecutors “cannot be influenced by politics or celebrity,” and cases should be decided on their merits and independent of police influence, Foxx told television station WGN.

Even though Smollett’s case did not call for jail time, his alleged actions were “nothing short of despicable and shameful,” said Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago Law School professor who has long criticized what he calls the cozy relationship between the police department and previous state’s attorneys.

Smollett should have been “made an example,” including requiring him to admit his actions, said Futterman, who also praised Foxx for scrutinizing cases more closely.

The actor maintains his innocence and says he was unfairly treated by police.

Foxx’s office also should have explained its decision to police before charges were dropped “as a common courtesy,” Futterman said.

Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson learned of the decision shortly before it became public, while attending a police cadet graduation ceremony.

Foxx told WGN that she spoke to Johnson both during the investigation and after her office’s decision to drop the charges.

“I think our relationship is one of mutual respect,” she said. “We share a commitment to this city.”

Guglielmi credited Foxx with changes that have improved the relationship between police and prosecutors and improved the chances of obtaining convictions, including teaching officers how to write better reports. He also said she put prosecutors inside police districts every day to “get involved on the front-line level” on cases such as gun offenses.

Even so, rank-and-file police officers were infuriated by the Smollett decision. The Fraternal Order of Police planned to protest the dismissal Monday outside the state’s attorney’s office, but said nobody was available Friday to comment.

Coincidentally, Foxx and Johnson likely owe their jobs to the same case.

Emanuel fired former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in 2015 following the release of dashcam footage showing a white police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who had only a small knife. He hired Johnson, a lifelong Chicagoan and career police officer, to lead the department in 2016, hoping he could help repair trust between the police and residents.

Foxx defeated two-term State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, whose loss was attributed to voter outrage following release of the video, which showed officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. Alvarez did not charge Van Dyke with murder for 13 months, and the charges came just hours before the video was made public under a court order.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder in October and was sentenced in January to less than seven years in prison with the possibility of going free in three years with credit for good behavior. Three other officers who were charged with lying about the shooting to protect Van Dyke were acquitted by a judge in January.

Futterman questioned Emanuel’s reaction to Smollett’s case, saying the mayor did not address false arrests, civil rights violations and the police code of silence “until his hand was forced.” He said blaming Smollett for harming the city’s reputation is unfounded.

“I think this case says more about Smollett than it does about Chicago,” Futterman said. “This as a solid investigation that the Chicago Police Department can stand behind. I don’t see Smollett’s own shameful actions as being a stain on Chicago.”

Johnson, for his part, says he’s ready to put the Smollett case behind him.

“Cops are resilient people,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday. “We go to court all the time and don’t get the outcomes that we’re looking for. We’re accustomed to it. … We move on.”

 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
14 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
20 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
22 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
23 days ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: A poster advertising the launch of Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is s...
Jill Lawless Associated Press

Prince Harry says explosive book is a bid to ‘own my story’

Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain’s royal family.
23 days ago
utah capitol, a new bill heading to lawmakers will affect the utah sex offender registry...
HANNAH SCHOENBAUM Associated Press/Report for America

States target transgender health care in first bills of 2023

After a record flow of anti-transgender legislation last year, Republican state lawmakers this year are zeroing in on questions of bodily autonomy.
25 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Smollett case tests relationship between police, prosecutors