Kim Foxx, Cook County State’s Attorney publicly recused herself from the Jussie Smollett case in Chicago but now we know she continued to monitor the case and texted staff about it. Thousands of pages of texts and emails related to the case were released Tuesday by the State’s Attorney’s office. Evidently, she doesn’t hold a high opinion of Smollett.
Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts stemming from accusations he committed a phony hate crime against himself on January 29 while blaming it on random violent Trump supporters in Chicago. Kim Foxx texted her disapproval of the decision made by her office to throw the book at Smollett and charge him with 16 felony counts. She sent the text to First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, the man who took over when she recused herself. Foxx called the charges excessive and as we all know now, the charges were later dropped. She also didn’t appreciate her office being accused of overcharging, especially since she claims that she was elected as a criminal justice reformer.
When Foxx texted Magats on March 8 that the number of felony charges against Smollett was becoming the story, “Exhibit A” in public criticism against the State’s Attorney’s office, Magats noted he could see how it may sound excessive. Then Foxx compared Smollett’s total number of felony charges to the number charged against rapper R. Kelly, another high profile felony case in her office. That is when Foxx’s slam against Smollett appeared. She called him a “washed up celeb who lied to cops.”
“Pedophile with 4 victims 10 counts. Washed up celeb who lied to cops, 16. On a case eligible for deferred prosecution I think it’s indicative of something we should be looking at generally,” Foxx wrote.
Magats then texted that he’d get with some other members of the state’s attorney’s office and “take a hard look at how we charge the cases and get it to something that covers what needs to be covered without being excessive and ultimately pointless.”
Ouch. It’s true that Smollett was axed from the remaining episodes of Empire this season. What isn’t certain, though, is just how “washed up” Smollett is now in the entertainment world. The jury is still out, so to speak. The texts also reveal Magats provided attorney Michael Avenatti with Foxx’s phone number. Avenatti was representing the Nigerian brothers in the case, he told her. Magats told her Avenatti “reached out”.
I’m not a lawyer, despite staying in a few Holiday Inn Expresses over the years, but I don’t think this is how recusal works. When I heard that Foxx recused herself from the case on February 19, I assumed that meant she cut herself off from it all. Texting the man who took over the case with her complaints and opinions sure look like she continued to be involved on some level. Prosecutors argued last month, after the charges were dropped against Smollett, that Foxx never formally recused herself. Tuesday Foxx issued a statement.
The communication between Foxx and Magats raised questions of whether she continued to take a role in the case after stepping away. In a statement Tuesday night, Foxx defended her messages to Magats.
“After the indictment became public, I reached out to Joe to discuss reviewing office policies to assure consistencies in our charging and our use of appropriate charging authority,” Foxx said in a statement obtained by USA Today. “I was elected to bring criminal justice reform and that includes intentionality, consistency, and discretion. I will continue to uphold these guiding principles.”
Make of that what you will. She raised concerns about the number of charges and told Magats in a text, “Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should.” It sure sounds as though she was pulling the strings from outside the case, at least some of them. Smollett lied to cops. That phony story of his resulted in a waste of time and police resources, all paid for by Chicago taxpayers. A slap on the wrist and a fine don’t look like justice to non-celebrities, that’s for sure.