Definitely above board and not at all suspicious that the state’s attorney who was leaning on Chicago police to let the feds handle this and who was put in contact with a Smollett family member by a politically connected lawyer didn’t actually recuse herself after claiming she did.
An acceptable outcome here, I think, would be Smollett getting off scot-free and everyone in the state’s attorney’s office getting indicted.
“The State’s Attorney did not formally recuse herself or the Office based on any actual conflict of interest,” her spokeswoman, Tandra R. Simonton, said Wednesday in an email response to my questions. “As a result, she did not have to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor under (state law).”
Instead, she put her first assistant, Joe Magats, out front to take the beating that would come.
“Although we use the term ‘recuse’ as it relates to State’s Attorney Foxx’s involvement in the matter, it was a colloquial use of the term rather in its legal sense,” Foxx’s office said.
She took two separate steps in Smollett’s favor, then misled the public about her “recusal,” and then, against all odds, Smollett landed a possibly unprecedented sweetheart deal that didn’t require him to plead guilty or even apologize. The inevitable question: Did Foxx lean on the alleged decisionmaker in this case, Joe Magats, to let Smollett walk? And if so, why? One obvious possibility is that an ambitious young D.A. like Foxx might have her eye on running statewide in Illinois in a few years and reasoned that it’d be worth doing a favor to Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama. The more prosaic alternative, that the state’s attorney’s office had better things to do with its time than prosecute Smollett, wouldn’t explain the decision to let him off free as a bird instead of at least insisting on a guilty plea and probation.
Perhaps there’ll be an answer to these questions. And even if there isn’t, the Smollett affair should be good for an entertaining 45-minute riff at tonight’s Trump rally in Michigan.
As for Smollett, his career prospects seem to change by the day. Last weekend, before charges were dropped, he was a liability to “Empire.” After his case was dismissed, suddenly he seemed unfireable: How do you drop a man who hasn’t been convicted of a crime? Today, amid a public uproar over his suspiciously light treatment and his own lack of remorse, he may be back to liability status.
It’s a position that seems headed towards Empire coming back for another season, but most likely without Smollett, who has always claimed and continues to insist that he is innocent…
For one thing, while the 16 felony charges (and potentially years behind bars) Smollett faced for allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself on January 29 are now gone and the case sealed, the actor is still being investigated in a federal probe over a potentially self-penned, hate-filled letter that arrived on the Empire set earlier this year…
Along with the Chicago police union angling for a probe into Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office’s handling of the case, the whole situation makes Smollett persona non grata in Chicago city limits, and certainly a major distraction for Empire and Fox.
It wouldn’t be unusual for a celebrity to walk out of court a free man only to find himself unemployable, as O.J. would tell us. But O.J.’s crime was light-years more serious than Smollett’s and O.J. was in fact indicted and tried. In the end Smollett wasn’t even charged. How do you tell his many fans and sympathizers in the “Empire” audience that he’s damaged goods regardless?