Eddie Johnson: It’s time to ‘turn the page’ from Smollett fiasco

Mayor Rahm Emanuel can’t get enough of the Jussie Smollett controversy.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has had enough.

“I have to turn the page and focus on what’s really important in this city. We’re getting ready to go into the summer months. I have to focus on violent crime and keeping this city safe,” Johnson said Friday.

“Cops are resilient people. We go to court all the time and don’t get the outcomes that we’re looking for. We’re accustomed to it. . . . We move on.”

Smollett’s legal team doesn’t appear ready to turn the page even though prosecutors dropped the charges against the “Empire” actor that accused him of staging a hate crime against himself.

TIMELINE: The Jussie Smollett investigation

After city leaders called on Smollett to apologize and reimburse the cost of the police investigation, the actor’s defense team demanded that Emanuel and Johnson apologize to Smollett for “dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud.”

“Absolutely not,” Johnson said when asked if he was prepared to apologize to Smollett.

And Johnson laughed out loud Friday at Smollett attorney Mark Geragos’ comments that the case was dropped because the police investigation was “fatally flawed” and it was going to “become embarrassing.”

The superintendent essentially accused Team Smollett of blowing smoke.

“They’re just saying that because that’s what they get paid to do. They get paid to represent him. … I don’t pay attention to that. … That’s just rhetoric,” Johnson told the Sun-Times.

“I can guarantee you that the investigation the Chicago Police Department conducted was a thorough one. And the facts bear out that this was not a hate crime. … I stand by that thorough investigation that the detectives did. … The facts that we laid out … supports the fact that it was a hoax. … If they have something that disputes that, then fine. You present that in court.”

Condemned by Emanuel as a “whitewash of justice,” Smollett was allowed to walk away from 16 charges of disorderly conduct after forfeiting his $10,000 bond.

Emanuel and Johnson didn’t get a heads up from Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx or her office about the decision to drop the charges. The two were at a police graduation ceremony when they found out.

On Friday, Johnson talked openly about the incident that has demoralized police officers and further strained the relationship between prosecutors and police.

“My relationship with Kim Foxx has been great. But you have to understand: Relationships with the police and the state’s attorney’s office can often be akin to a marriage. We don’t always agree,” he said.

Foxx has defended the decision to drop the charges.

While her office now says Foxx never formally recused herself from the Smollett case, Foxx regrets having attempted to persuade Johnson to transfer the investigation from CPD to the FBI at a time when Smollett was still viewed as the victim of a hate crime.

Foxx was contacted by an influential supporter of the “Empire” actor: Tina Tchen, a Chicago attorney and former chief of staff for former first lady Michelle Obama.

Johnson was asked his reaction to that phone call and whether Foxx mentioned she had been lobbied by someone as influential as Tchen.

“I didn’t get a call from Tina Tchen and, no, she didn’t tell me who contacted her,” Johnson said.

Shouldn’t Foxx have disclosed who was behind the request?

“Not necessarily. … That may be true [that Tchen has clout], but it’s not unusual for me and Kim Foxx to talk about different cases. And we don’t always agree. So that doesn’t send off any alarm bells in my mind,” Johnson said.

Ultimately, Johnson considered Foxx’s request and rejected it. The Chicago Police Department kept the case.

“We were doing an exhaustive investigation. I was confident of the investigation that we were doing,” he said,

Johnson noted the FBI was “involved in this from the very beginning” because of a threatening letter mailed to Smollett a week before the actor reported being attacked in the Streeterville neighborhood.

The Fraternal Order of Police has renewed its demand for a federal investigation into Foxx’s “interference” in the case.

The union representing rank-and-file police officers is scheduled to hold a rally Monday outside Foxx’s downtown office to protest a state’s attorney the union has long viewed as soft on crime.

Johnson demurred when asked if Foxx mishandled the Smollett case.

“I’m not gonna go there. They have prosecutorial discretion in terms of what they do. You have to ask them about what they did,” he said. “My job is to be a cop.”


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