Tuesday June 2nd, 2020 10:52PM

Smollett case could complicate career of top prosecutor

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CHICAGO (AP) — The decision by a grand jury to restore charges against Jussie Smollett could bedevil the reelection bid of the first black woman to hold Chicago's top law enforcement job and potentially alter the trajectory of a prosecutor once seen as a rising star in Illinois politics.

The indictment drew a stinging public response from Kim Foxx, who quickly raised the specter of a conspiracy against her. Foxx's statement was also an acknowledgement that the renewed case accusing Smollett of staging a racist, anti-gay attack on himself could undermine her quest for a second term as Cook County state's attorney.

The indictment issued Tuesday was ushered in by a special prosecutor who reviewed the decision by Foxx's office 11 months ago to abruptly drop the initial charges against Smollett. That decision was unjustified, he said, in part because the evidence against Smollett seemed overwhelming and because he was not required to admit that the attack was a hoax.

The 47-year-old Fox is still widely considered the front-runner and the odds-on favorite to win. But questions still linger about whether she acted improperly by speaking to a Smollett relative and a onetime aide of former first lady Michelle Obama before the charges were dropped, or by weighing in on the case after recusing herself. The special prosecutor said he planned to submit a report on whether there was wrongdoing by county prosecutors in coming months.

Foxx's campaign released a statement Tuesday that referred to then-FBI Director James Comey's decision in 2016 to briefly reopen an investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails shortly before the presidential election that Donald Trump won.

"What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision" five weeks before the Illinois primary, the statement said. The charges "can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive."

Smollett's lawyer, Tina Glandian, struck a similar chord, saying the attempt to "re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State's Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice."

The indictment accuses the black, openly gay actor of making false police reports in claiming two men attacked him early on Jan. 29, 2019, in Chicago, shouting slurs and looping a rope around his neck.

It was not the first time a criminal case with racial dimensions shook up a state's attorney's campaign.

Foxx won in 2016 by joining in widespread criticism of incumbent Anita Alvarez for seeming to drag her feet in prosecuting a white police officer who shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.

Foxx's three main challengers in next month's Democratic primary had already identified her handling of the Smollett case as a vulnerability. With Tuesday's indictment, they rushed to highlight the issue. In overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, the primary invariably determines who wins the general election.

“What’s concerned me about this case since the beginning is that a connected, Hollywood celebrity got a sweetheart deal that residents of Cook County do not get,” challenger Bill Conway tweeted Tuesday.

Conway is a former Cook County assistant state's attorney and son of billionaire William Elias Conway Jr., a founder of the Carlyle Group investment firm.

Even before the new Smollett indictment, Conway ran a campaign ad featuring client Candace Clark, a big-box store employee charged, like Smollett, with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.

“I’m not famous, and I didn’t get special treatment from Kim Foxx," Clark says to the camera in the ad. "Bill Conway isn't going to just look out for rich and famous people."

As part of a deferred prosecution deal, Cook County prosecutors last year demanded that Clark submit to court oversight and do community service. They also asked for $2,500 in restitution. Clark's judge, Marc Martin, balked at an April hearing, noting that there were no such formal conditions for dropping Smollett's charges a month earlier.

“It’s a disorderly conduct case … a lot less egregious than Mr. Smollett’s," Martin said.

The restitution amount was later lowered to $1,200, and Clark accepted the deal.

Foxx told Chicago radio station WBBM earlier this month Conway's ad is misleading, in part because it does not explain that charges against Clark were, in fact, dropped.

“We have increased the use of diversion in alternative prosecution by 25% and there are literally thousands of people whose cases have not been in the court system because we have used those alternatives,” including Smollett and Clark, she said.

The timing of the new Smollett charges, which Foxx's campaign criticized, was up to the special prosecutor, Dan Webb, a consummate Chicago insider. The former U.S. attorney is a top-dollar criminal lawyer who has been a favorite of judges seeking special prosecutors to assume control of politically sensitive cases.

Webb has never harbored ill-will towards Foxx, at least not publicly.

He co-hosted a 2016 fundraiser for her and wrote her campaign a $1,000 check during her successful run for state’s attorney. The judge who appointed him to Smollett's case briefly mulled replacing Webb for possible bias in Foxx's favor after revelations about the contributions. He later ruled he saw no evidence of actual bias.

While Webb delayed addressing questions about possible wrongdoing by Foxx and her staff, his statement announcing the indictment stuck a critical note. When asked to provide details about prosecutors' assertion that Smollett's case received the same treatment as other, similar cases, Webb said Foxx's office "was unable to provide this documentary evidence" supporting that claim.

Foxx does not appear as vulnerable now as her predecessor was four years ago. She's secured endorsements from nearly all of Illinois' top Democrats. Most recently, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders offered his, Politico reported Wednesday.

Reform advocates have hailed reforms Foxx pushed through — often over the angry objections of Chicago's police union and chiefs of police across Cook County — including treating certain nonviolent crimes, like shoplifting, as lower priorities.

Support for Foxx in minority communities seems to have increased amid the criticism from her primary opponents.

Rev. Marshall Hatch, a prominent minister on Chicago's West Side, said the timing of the new charges is widely seen as suspect. “Most people, and I agree, see it for what it is. It’s a smokescreen and a distraction in order to kind of muddy Kim Foxx up.”


Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.


Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at


Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News, AP Elections - Political Conventions
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Smollett case could complicate career of top prosecutor
The decision by a grand jury to restore charges against Jussie Smollett could bedevil the reelection bid of the first black woman to hold Chicago's top law enforcement job
7:21PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Track: 5th straight sellout for season-opening Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is a sellout for the fifth consecutive year
7:17PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Trump Fed nominee Shelton faces skepticism at Senate hearing
One of President Donald Trump's nominees for the Federal Reserve has come under sharp questioning from senators over her unorthodox economic views, Among the skeptics were two Republicans whose doubts about her nomination could imperil it
7:06PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump bringing back trusted aide Hope Hicks to White House
Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump's most trusted and longest-serving aides, is returning to the White House
5:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
Nevada's Culinary Union will not endorse in Democratic race
The Culinary Union, the most influential union in Nevada politics, has decided to stay out of the state's Democratic presidential caucuses
5:36PM ( 1 hour ago )
Limbaugh draws bipartisan criticism for Buttigieg remarks
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is drawing bipartisan criticism for saying the country won't elect openly gay Democrat Pete Buttigieg because it's not ready for a president who 'loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage
5:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Elections
10 Things to Know for Today
Get ready for Thursday, Feb. 13 with a few things to know about the day’s news from The Associated Press
6:29AM ( 13 hours ago )
In South, Bloomberg aims to move past stop-and-frisk remarks
Michael Bloomberg is on a two-day campaign swing through the South
6:03AM ( 13 hours ago )
2020 hopefuls eye Super Tuesday even as 2 other states loom
Nevada votes next, then South Carolina
5:53AM ( 13 hours ago )
General Election News
Nevada union might not endorse, but it isn't staying quiet
Nevada's most politically powerful union, the casino workers' Culinary Union, is so far staying quiet on whether it will endorse a candidate as the Democratic presidential race swings west, but Joe Biden isn't counting on the labor group's help
8:03PM ( 23 hours ago )
After impeachment: Congress adrift, oversight uncertain
Inside the Capitol, it’s as if the impeachment of President Donald Trump never happened
5:23PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: More than 451,000 ballots cast in New Hampshire
More than 451,000 ballots were cast in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary
5:05PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Ryan's Secret show brings awareness to male body positivity
The debate over unrealistic body ideals for women is a long-standing one, but the same discussion over expectations for men hasn't reached the same cultural pitch
5:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
New exhibit examines ballet's lasting influence on fashion
A crowning jewel of the new exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology is a feathered white tutu
4:59PM ( 2 hours ago )
Weinstein lawyer: Prosecutors have a 'tale,' not a case
Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer has told jurors that prosecutors in the rape case against him acted like moviemakers and conjured up a world where women aren't responsible for how they interact with men
4:53PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Smollett case reopens arguments about race, class in Chicago
After a grand jury revived criminal charges against Jussie Smollett, his case and that of a teenager shot by Chicago police reopened arguments about the role of race and class in the justice system
8:32AM ( 11 hours ago )
Snoop Dogg apologizes to Gayle King for rant over Bryant
After days of blistering criticism, Snoop Dogg has finally apologized to Gayle King for attacking her over her interview with Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant
10:42PM ( 20 hours ago )
Jussie Smollett's image takes new hit with revived charges
Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has disappeared from Twitter, his last Instagram post was eight months ago and his career appears to be at a standstill
6:43PM ( 1 day ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
AP VoteCast: NH Democrats angry, seek alternative to Trump
Democratic voters in the New Hampshire primary were angry at President Donald Trump's administration and eager to pick the candidate most likely to oust him from office
12:40PM ( 1 day ago )
AP VoteCast: Young, liberal voters key to Sanders’ NH win
AP VoteCast shows Bernie Sanders won the young, the liberal and the disaffected in New Hampshire
12:33PM ( 1 day ago )
Sanders edges Buttigieg in NH, giving Dems 2 front-runners
Bernie Sanders has won New Hampshire’s presidential primary election, narrowly edging moderate rival Pete Buttigieg and scoring the first clear victory in the Democratic Party’s chaotic 2020 nomination fight
6:18AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Political Conventions
Track: 5th straight sellout for season-opening Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 is a sellout for the fifth consecutive year
7:17PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Trump Fed nominee Shelton faces skepticism at Senate hearing
One of President Donald Trump's nominees for the Federal Reserve has come under sharp questioning from senators over her unorthodox economic views, Among the skeptics were two Republicans whose doubts about her nomination could imperil it
7:06PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Democrats step up attacks to blunt Michael Bloomberg's rise
Democratic presidential candidates hoping to revive their flagging campaigns are increasingly taking aim at Michael Bloomberg
7:01PM ( 31 minutes ago )
Cuomo meets with Trump to offer deal on travelers program
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has visited the White House in the hope he can persuade President Donald Trump to reverse a decision to boot New Yorkers from programs that allow travelers to avoid long lines at U.S. at the border
6:49PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Calif. man free after DNA site leads to new arrest in murder
California authorities have used recently developed DNA techniques to free one man and implicate another for only the second time in the United States
6:44PM ( 48 minutes ago )