After former ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett went from hate crime victim, to criminal defendant, to free man, the lawsuits started flying. The City of Chicago sued him for the costs of investigating the alleged crime. His alleged co-conspirators sued his attorneys for defamation.
And now, just when you thought those lawsuits would fade into the courtroom and off the front page, the chief judge of Cook County’s Criminal Court will hear a request to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the entire affair. So don’t worry — Smollett himself may have no interest in ongoing litigation regarding his alleged hoax, but that doesn’t mean it will go away.
From One Conflict…
Foxx’s decision to drop false reporting charges against Smollett didn’t go over so well in the Chicago law enforcement community. And retired Appeals Court Judge Sheila O’Brien has subpoenaed Foxx’s office and demanded a special prosecutor be assigned to investigate any potential conflicts of interest. Foxx is battling both.
While prosecutors generally have the discretion to bring or dismiss criminal charges, Foxx’s decision to drop 16 felony counts in such a high-profile case was sure to draw some scrutiny. Foxx claims she announced to her staff that she was turning the final decision-making over to her top assistant, Joseph Magats, a week before Smollett was charged. She has argued that she has no “actual” conflict in Smollett’s case, and only recused herself because she was in communication with a Smollett relative at a time when Smollett was considered a victim.
O’Brien thinks she may have spotted another conflict of interest in her request for a special prosecutor. County Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. is set to rule on her motion, and his son, Leroy III, was hired as an assistant prosecutor by Foxx’s office last year. O’Brien is asking Martin to recuse himself and have a judge from outside Cook County decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor.
“It troubles me that we’re having this discussion about my family member, bringing one’s family into these circumstances,” Martin said, acknowledging that he hears cases “every single day,” argued by lawyers employed by the state’s attorney and no one claims there’s a conflict in those cases. “In the course of your career and my career as a lawyer and a judge this is a rather unique situation.”
The entire Smollett Affair qualifies as a “rather unique situation,” and one that we’re comfortable saying is not going away any time soon.