Jussie Smollett has neither been “found innocent” nor “exonerated” for filing an untrue police report that he was the victim of a hate crime, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a commentary she wrote Saturday for the Chicago Tribune.
“There was considerable evidence, uncovered in large part due to the investigative work of the Chicago Police Department, suggesting that portions of Smollett’s claims may have been untrue and that he had direct contact with his so-called attackers,” Foxx wrote.
“Claims by Smollett or others that the outcome of this case has ‘exonerated’ him or that he has been found innocent are simply wrong. He has not been exonerated; he has not been found innocent.”
Smollett’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Foxx and the Chicago police have come under fire for dropping 16 criminal counts against Smollett, who had been accused of staging an attack against himself on a Chicago street in January and filing a false report (which is a Class 4 felony in the state of Illinois). He was ordered to perform two days of community service and forfeited his $10,000 cash bond payment to the city — a normal sentence for a suspect with no prior criminal record.
“There were specific aspects of the evidence and testimony presented to the office that would have made securing a conviction against Smollett uncertain,” Foxx wrote.
Foxx’s office balanced the severity of the crime against the chances of locking a conviction, she said.
Specifics of the case have not been made public, as Smollett’s team has requested that the public records remain sealed.
Foxx maintains that she believes her department’s decision not to prosecute the case was the right one.
“Yes, falsely reporting a hate crime makes me angry, and anyone who does that deserves the community’s outrage. But, as I’ve said since before I was elected, we must separate the people at whom we are angry from the people of whom we are afraid,” Foxx said.
“I was elected on a promise to rethink the justice system, to keep people out of prison who do not pose a danger to the community.”
Foxx said her office chooses to dedicate more resources to combating “truly violent crimes.”
“As a public figure, Smollett’s alleged unstable actions have probably caused him more harm than any court-ordered penance could,” Foxx said. “None of that, though, should detract from two facts that must be able to coexist: First, falsely reporting a hate crime is a dangerous and unlawful act, and Smollett was not exonerated of that in this case.
“Second, our criminal justice system is at its best when jails are used to protect us from the people we rightly fear, while alternative outcomes are reserved for the people who make us angry but need to learn the error of their ways without seeing their lives irrevocably destroyed.”