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Smollett attorney: Politics, Kim Foxx not factors in charges being dropped

Patricia Brown Holmes, a lawyer for "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, speaks to reporters Tuesday, March 26, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The attorney for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said Wednesday morning that politics and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, in particular, had nothing to do with the decision to drop all charges against her client.

“Kim Foxx had zero to do with this. She recused herself. She was not involved,” attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said, speaking on WFLD FOX 32 Chicago.

Holmes also blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, who Tuesday had harsh words for the decision to drop all charges against Smollett.

“They are not the judge, they are not the jury,” Holmes said.

The attorney’s comments came a day after Cook County prosecutors told a judge in a hastily scheduled hearing that they would not pursue the 16 felony counts filed against the actor over a month ago and then moved to seal all records in the case.

The sudden conclusion of the case added a controversial twist to a case that had intrigued and stirred outrage across the nation since Smollett reported that he had been assaulted by two men as he walked home from a sandwich shop in the early-morning hours of Jan. 29. The African-American and openly gay actor said his attackers had hurled racist and homophobic taunts at him as they struck him, slipped a thin rope noose over his head and poured bleach on him. And they told him he was in “MAGA country. Investigators later said the claims were part of a hoax to help Smollett generate publicity to get a pay increase for his role on “Empire.”

Holmes said in the TV interview Wednesday that the disposition to her client’s case was not unusual.

“This is something that occurs in a whole lot of cases all the time,” Holmes said.

Joseph Magats, Foxx’s top deputy, made the decision to drop the charges. He said Tuesday that the decision doesn’t mean Smollett was a victim of a crime or that the case against him was somehow flawed.

But Holmes disputed that Wednesday.

“We were able to convince them the information was not what they thought it was,” she said. “We did our homework, and they did the right thing.”

Magats had final say because Foxx recused herself from the case early on. She had talked to a relative of Smollett’s during the first weeks of the investigation, when Smollett was still considered the victim of a hate crime. Text messages show that Foxx then contacted Johnson to urge the police chief to turn the case over to federal investigators. Foxx’s personal phone number had been passed to Smollett’s relative by Tina Tchen, a Chicago lawyer and prominent Democratic fundraiser who had worked as first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff.

Holmes was also asked Wednesday why her client was willing to forfeit the $10,000 he paid to be released pending trial if he were innocent. Magats said Tuesday that Smollett’s willingness to turn over the money was key to prosecutors’ decision to drop the case.

“Would you spend the next two years trying to fight for $10,000?” Holmes said.

Asked how Smollett is doing, Holmes said: “He’s doing as well as someone can whose name has been dragged through the mud.”

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