DOWNTOWN — President Donald Trump said federal authorities will investigate the Jussie Smollett case.
Smollett, an actor on “Empire,” had charges of falsifying a police report dropped against him earlier this week in a controversial move. Police and prosecutors had said he orchestrated a fake, racially based attack to raise his profile and get a bigger salary on the show.
The decision to drop the charges — in exchange for Smollett performing several hours of community service and forfeiting $10,000 to the city — was criticized by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Supt. Eddie Johnson, and the police union called for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to be investigated by federal authorities over the handling of the case.
And in a tweet early Thursday, Trump said the FBI and Department of Justice would “review the outrageous” case.
“It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” Trump tweeted.
In a news conference after the charges were dropped, Smollett’s attorney said he was innocent. The actor himself said he hopes to get back to work and move on.
“I have been truthful and consistent on” everything, Smollett said. “This has been an incredibly difficult time.”
Foxx, who had recused herself from the case, defended her office’s actions on Wednesday, saying the deal was not made by her but wasn’t uncommon. She said the case will be unsealed.
Prosecutors look at defendants’ backgrounds and criminal history when making these decisions, Foxx said. They also look at data and whether they believe the defendant will re-offend. Smollett did not have a residence in Chicago, which also made traveling back and forth for hearings difficult and led to a more speedy resolution of the case.
Smollett forfeiting his $10,000 bond and doing community service are examples of someone being held responsible, she said.
“This is not what it looks like on ‘Law and Order.’ I think that’s where the angst and confusion comes from,” Foxx said. “Right now there’s a lot of emotion and I wholeheartedly believe in our line of work we cannot be driven by emotion. We have to be driven by facts.”
Foxx said she was frustrated by the attention the Smollett case received — especially given the other cases her office is dealing with.
“We have 40,000 felony-level cases that we deal with every year,” she said, adding that Chicago’s homicide rate, shootings and sex crimes outpace those of other cities.
What Smollett did will have an impact on how hate crime victims will be perceived, she said. But she said it breaks her heart the Smollett case got so much more attention than others, like a toddler being shot while on his mom’s lap.
“I hear it. I hear the concerns and I don’t believe it is the prosecutor’s place to suggest that we make example because when we’ve done that it has had disastrous outcomes not just for the exemplar” but for people in similar situations, she said.
She also said this case is not some metaphor for her overall relationship with the police department.
”It does boggle the mind that of the tens of thousands of cases” handled, “this is somehow emblematic” of the relationship between her office and police, she said.
While Smollett maintained his innocence on Tuesday, Foxx’s office has been consistent in saying the actor made up the attack.
“I do not believe he is innocent,” Joseph Magats, first assistant Cook County state’s attorney, told CBS2 on Tuesday. Magats was the lead prosecutor in the case. “Based on all facts and circumstances of the case, and also keeping in mind resources and keeping in mind that the office’s No. 1 priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence, I decided to offer this disposition in the case.”
Police and prosecutors said Smollett paid $3,500 to two brothers to pretend to attack him in Streeterville. The men, who were later interviewed by police, punched Smollett “a little bit” and the actor “self-inflicted” cuts and scratches on his face as part of the alleged ruse, Johnson said at the time.
Smollett’s attorney said Tuesday the $3,500 the actor paid his alleged attackers wasn’t part of a ruse, but was instead meant to help the men pay for nutrition and athletic training.
After the alleged attack, Smollett told police he’d been beaten by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, put a noose around his neck and threw a liquid on him.
Smollett reportedly told investigators that his attackers called him “‘Empire’ f—–” and “‘Empire’ n—–,” and told him Chicago was “MAGA” territory.
But within weeks police said the attack had not actually occurred. Smollett was charged and written out from the last episodes of “Empire’s” latest season.
Johnson also alleged it was Smollett who first sent a racist letter to the set of “Empire” threatening himself.R
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