One of two requests to have a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the abrupt dismissal of criminal charges against actor Jussie Smollett has been dropped, as former prosecutor Saani Mohammed on Monday moved to withdraw a petition against his former boss, Kim Foxx.
Mohammed, who left the state’s attorney’s office last month, was the first to file a formal request for a probe of how the office handled Smollett’s case, followed days later by a petition from former Illinois Appellate Court Judge Sophia O’Brien.
O’Brien’s petition, which also calls for a judge from outside Cook County to make the call on whether or not to appoint a special prosecutor, will continue, with a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
O’Brien last week subpoenaed both Foxx and her chief deputy, Joseph Magats, who became the final decision-maker in the Smollett case after Foxx announced she had recused herself because of conversations she had with a relative of Smollett’s in the days when the “Empire” star was considered a suspect in a hate crime attack near his Streeterville apartment. O’Brien has also asked that Smollett appear at the hearing.
Police said Smollett staged the attack, hiring a pair of brothers who has worked as his personal trainer and as extras on “Empire,” to assault him. Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed that he was beaten by two unknown men as he walked home from a sandwich shop, and that they hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, hung a thin rope noose around his neck and poured a chemical on him.
Smollett was charged with making a false report to police after the brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, confessed to police that they had been paid to fake the attack. Just weeks later, at a hearing that was not announced to the press or on the public court docket, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Smollett, who agreed to forfeit the $10,000 he posted for bond, and left the courthouse proclaiming his innocence.
Foxx initially compared how Smollett’s case was handled to “alternative prosecution” agreements, though such deals typically include some admission of guilt by the defendant. Days later, Foxx wrote an op-ed stating that the evidence against Smollett was not strong enough to guarantee a conviction.
A probe by a special prosecutor would come on top of an investigation by the county Office of the Independent Inspector General launched this month. A state’s attorney’s office spokeswoman earlier this month said there will be no further comment on Smollett’s case until after Inspector General Patrick Blanchard completes his report.