Chicago’s new mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot still has questions about why the charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and has called on the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to provide more information about why the case against the actor was abandoned.
“The State’s Attorney’s office here which made the decision unilaterally to drop the charges has to give a much more fulsome explanation,” Lightfoot said during an interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC Wednesday. “We cannot create the perception that if you’re rich or famous or both that you got one set of justice — and for everybody else it’s something much harsher. That won’t do and we need to make sure that we have a criminal justice system that has integrity.”
When asked point blank by Melvin about whether she thought Smollett was innocent, Lightfoot hedged but said the evidence did not suggest that conclusion.
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“I believe that everybody is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” she said. “But I saw — as I’m sure you and your listeners saw — a very compelling case, with video tapes, witness statement and other information that looked like he had staged a hoax, and if that happened he’s got to be held accountable.”
Reps for Smollett declined to comment. Reps for Foxx did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The remarks from Lightfoot, who will become the first black woman and first openly gay woman to serve as Chicago’s mayor suggest, that focus will not let up on the Smollett case even after Rahm Emanuel leaves office. In his final days on the job, Emanuel railed against the decision by Foxx to drop all charges against Smollett. In an angry press conference last month, Emanuel called the move a “whitewash of justice.”
“Do I think justice was served? No,” he said. “I’ve heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so America could know the truth. But no, they chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system … I stand behind the detectives’ investigation.”
Smollett had been facing 16 felony counts stemming from what police said was a fabricated hate crime in January intended to boost his national profile (and his salary for the Fox series “Empire”). Smollett has insisted that he was in fact attacked and maintained his innocence.
“I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said during a press conference after the charges were formally dropped. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.”