Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Wednesday called on Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to review the handling of Jussie Smollett’s case, saying the decision to drop all the charges sets a “dangerous precedent for high profile cases.”
A former prosecutor himself, Durkin argued that the surprise move to abandon the prosecution of Smollett raises questions about the “integrity” of the Cook County State’s Attorney Office.
Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against the “Empire” actor for allegedly staging a hoax hate crime attack against himself. Prosecutors told a judge they would not pursue the 16 felony counts filed against the actor and moved to seal all records in the case, which drew immediate criticism from both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.
Durkin, R-Western Springs, on Wednesday formally asked Raoul for a “complete and thorough review” of the prosecution and sentencing determination in the case.
“As a former Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, I am concerned about the integrity of this investigation and of the office,” Durkin said in the letter e-mailed to Raoul and hand-delivered to his office. “This case has shed a negative light onto an office that I had the privilege to work in for many years. For someone to falsify a hate crime and to be ‘let off the hook’ is not only unfair but sets a dangerous precedent for high profile cases.”
A Raoul spokeswoman said they received Durkin’s letter and are reviewing his request.
Asked by the Sun-Times on Tuesday whether Raoul would be conducting a review of the case, a spokeswoman said in a statement that the attorney general’s office “had no role in this prosecution.” But Raoul’s office noted the attorney general can investigate “matters of public integrity based on specific and credible allegations.”
“The Cook County State’s Attorney has primary criminal jurisdiction over criminal matters in Cook County and has discretion in how it handles criminal cases,” the statement said. “Cook County chose to exercise its jurisdiction in this case and as a result, the Attorney General’s office had no role in this prosecution. The Attorney General’s office investigates matters of public integrity based on specific and credible allegations.”
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, also filed a House resolution on Wednesday that asks Raoul’s office to “conduct a full, prompt, and comprehensive examination” of the Smollett case and the state’s attorney’s decision not to pursue charges against the actor.
The calls echo that of the Fraternal Order of Police, which has demanded a federal investigation to determine whether Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx acted inappropriately when she tried to persuade Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to transfer the investigation of Smollett’s claim of being the target of a hate crime to the FBI.
Foxx’s initial request that Johnson transfer the case to the FBI came after an influential supporter of the “Empire” actor reached out to Foxx personally: Tina Tchen, a Chicago attorney and former chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama, according to emails and text messages provided by Foxx to the Sun-Times in response to a public records request.
Foxx recused herself from the investigation after facilitating conversations between Smollett’s family and the Chicago Police Department.
Speaking to WBEZ, Foxx defended prosecutors’ decision to drop charges, saying there was a “slim” chance the actor would have received jail time in the case.
“I think that there is a lot of confusion,” Foxx said. “There’s some people who were never going to be satisfied unless Mr. Smollett spent many nights in prison.”
According to a transcript of the interview, Foxx compared the handling of Smollett’s case to numerous other