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Lawyer surprises woman, takes her case after judge cited Smollett, slammed deal

Candace Clark met her new attorney on Wednesday morning — and didn’t know he’d offered to help her until he showed up at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

Candace Clark, 21, of Hoffman Estates, is charged with felony disorderly conduct. The judge handling her case recently blasted prosecutors for giving "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett a break on a similar charge, but not Clark. | Photo provided.

Candace Clark now has a new private attorney — free — and you might say she has Jussie Smollett to thank for it.

“I read the article, and I said, ‘It’s not fair that Candace is being treated differently just because she’s not connected,’” the lawyer, William E. Conway, said outside a Rolling Meadows courtroom Wednesday morning.

Conway was referring to an April 25th Chicago Sun-Times story about Clark, 21, a Hoffman Estates Home Depot employee whose felony disorderly conduct case drew the ire of Cook County Judge Marc Martin. The Rolling Meadows judge in early April lashed out at prosecutors, asking why Clark was being treated differently than Smollett, the “Empire” actor.

She met her new attorney on Wednesday morning — and didn’t know he’d offered to help her until he showed up in Rolling Meadows.

“It’s godly,” she said, beaming.

Like Clark, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. She was charged in October 2018. Smollett was charged earlier this year in a case that drew worldwide attention after the actor alleged he’d been the victim of a hate crime downtown, something police and prosecutors later said was a ploy to generate publicity.

The case took a bizarre twist when it emerged that Chicago lawyer Tina Tchen reached out to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx about the Smollett case. Tchen, who was chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, is a friend of the Smollett family and wanted to put them in touch with Foxx.

Based on that contact, Foxx recused herself from the Smollett case. The case against the actor was abruptly dropped earlier this year — a move that drew widespread criticism. At the time, prosecutors said Smollett wasn’t getting preferential treatment and that he also had agreed to forfeit $10,000 in bond money.

But Martin noted in early April that Clark isn’t a “movie star” and isn’t getting the same treatment from prosecutors. At the time, prosecutors were offering Clark “deferred prosecution,” requiring her to pay back approximately $2,500 — as well as attend periodic court hearings, get a G.E.D. and either show proof of a job or do community service.

Based on Martin’s comments in court, Clark refused to sign off on the deal.

Conway said he needs to spend some time reviewing the case before he advises Clark of their next move.

“I’m not (Smollett attorney) Mark Geragos. I’m not Tina Tchen, but nonetheless, Candace deserves as good a defense as Jussie got, even though she’s not a connected person,” Conway said.

Martin set the next court date for June 6.