CHICAGO - After disgraced actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced Thursday to 150 days in jail for staging a hoax hate crime, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx lambasted the court proceedings as "mob justice" and a politically motivated "kangaroo prosecution."
But veterans of the Cook County court system pushed back strongly while questioning Foxx’s office’s decision to drop charges against Smollett before the case was eventually reassigned to Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
In a Chicago Sun-Times column, Foxx claimed Smollett’s prosecution could ultimately serve as "a deterrent to the next generation of prosecutors eager to fight for critical reforms."
"It pains me deeply to say that, in this particular case, our justice system failed," Foxx wrote.
Former Cook County Judge Dan Locallo said Foxx’s commentary amounts to an "attempt to divert any discussion as to why her office acted in the manner that they did."
Locallo, who also served as a Cook County prosecutor, said he couldn’t recall another case where a suspect had their charges dropped without notice soon after being indicted by a grand jury. Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb to the case six months after that move.
"Dan Webb explained his findings and he took the appropriate action to indict Smollett again, contrary to Kim Foxx giving no explanation and suddenly the charges are dropped," Locallo said. "Who’s acting like a kangaroo court?"
Foxx took little accountability for her own role in the Smollett saga in the column, although she noted that Webb’s probe "un-ironically" accused her of "abuses of discretion."
A report Webb filed found that, while Foxx and her staff had done nothing illegal, the state’s attorney and her top deputies made procedural and ethical missteps as they mishandled the case and then tried to mislead the public amid blowback over the decision to dismiss charges. It also showed that Foxx was getting regular updates on the case after she purportedly "recused" herself and that she continued talking to Smollett’s sister after learning he was the target of a criminal investigation.
Webb said he hadn’t read Foxx’s column but remarked that her conduct had raised Toomin’s eyebrows.
"Smollett was allowed to go free and basically give the finger to the city of Chicago," Webb said while leaving the courthouse Thursday. "Judge Toomin decided that handling of that case was so inappropriate that a special prosecutor needed to be appointed.
"So I follow the directions of Judge Toomin and not the directions of Kim Foxx."
Toomin declined to comment after Smollett’s attorneys indicated they plan to appeal the sentence. In addition to the jail time, Smollett was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay the city of Chicago $120,000 in restitution.
One of Smollett’s attorneys, Shay Allen, said he agreed with Foxx’s assessment that the prosecution was politically motivated as he read the op-ed in the courthouse lobby Thursday.
"The impetus was second-guessing the prosecutor — a progressive, Black prosecutor — and to say ‘this old white man can do a better job than you,’ "Allen said. "And Jussie was caught in the crossfire."