Prosecutors in the Jussie Smollett case struggled to explain to the public why they were dropping charges against the Empire actor, newly released documents show.
On Friday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx released more than 2,000 pages of documents related to the controversial case, in which the actor was first accused of staging an attack against himself, but then saw the charges abruptly dropped. As Fox News noted, the documents showed prosecutors working to come up with an explanation as to why Smollett would not face charges.
The day before the charges were dropped, Smollett’s lawyer wrote to prosecutors suggesting they cite Smollett’s service work in Chicago, where he regularly volunteers in the community.
Foxx has since offered a series of different explanations as to why she recused herself from the case, and documents showed how she struggled over whether the recuse herself. In February, Foxx said that she had communication with the Smollett family during the initial investigation into the attack, before police turned their attention to Smollett himself. Foxx had spoken to Tina Tchen, the former chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama and a representative for the Smollett family.
But on Friday, Foxx said that she recused herself in response to “false rumors” that were circulating.
“False rumors circulated that I was related or somehow connected to the Smollett family, so I removed myself from all aspects of the investigation and prosecution… so as to avoid even the perception of a conflict,” Foxx said, via the Associated Press.
The internal documents showed that Foxx was worried about rumors that she was “related to or closely connected to the Smolletts.” Foxx did not want to recuse, she explained, but was told by an ethics officer that she needed to do it.
“I told [the rumor] that wasn’t true,” Foxx wrote. “She said it was pervasive (in the Chicago Police Department) and that I should recuse. I thought it was dumb but acquiesced. It’s actually just racist.”
Foxx later said in a text message to First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats that she believes the charges leveled against Smollett, which included 16 felony counts, to be excessive.
“Sooo…… I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases… 16 counts on a class 4 becomes exhibit A,” she texted, to which Magats agreed that he could see where it would be perceived as excessive.
JUST IN: In newly released documents, we learn police interviewed Jussie Smollett's "attackers," the Osundairo brothers.— Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) May 30, 2019
They confessed and said Smollett staged the attack. This was the day before Smollett went on GMA (via @cbschicago)
MORE: https://t.co/NLxvQiK28t pic.twitter.com/VqWItNquU9
Documents also showed how the allegations by Jussie Smollett (alleging that he was attacked by men shouting racist epithets) fell apart during the investigation.