Jussie Smollett hate crime hoax probe was ‘major failure’, says special prosecutor

Jussie Smollett outside Chicago's Leighton Courthouse

A special prosecutor has condemned the initial investigation into former Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who was this month found guilty of staging a hate crime against himself.

Jussie Smollett claimed that he was the victim of a hate crime on the night of 29 January, 2018, when two men shouted homophobic, racist slurs while beating him and looping a makeshift noose around his neck.

As new evidence surfaced, in February, 2019, Smollett was accused of staging the “hate crime”, and was indicted by a grand jury in Cook County, Chicago, on 16 felony counts.

However, by the next month, all charges against him had been dropped. At the time, Cook County State’s attorney Kim Foxx said: “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case… we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”

Foxx faced intense criticism after the unexpected decision, and eventually requested a special prosecutor to investigate the handling of the case.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb concluded his report on the investigation on 17 August, 2020, according to CNN, but it has now been released following Smollett’s conviction.

Initial investigation of Jussie Smollett was a ‘major failure’, according to special prosecutor Dan Webb

In his report, special prosecutor Dan Webb said that while he did not find that any crimes had been committed by state attorney Kim Foxx or the Cook County State’s attorney’s office, his uncover “evidence that establishes substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures”.

Foxx was accused of making “false and misleading” statements relating to the case, including the timing of her contact with Jussie Smollett’s sister Jurnee.

The state attorney had admitted to contact with Jurnee, but said that she had cut off contact when it became clear Smollett was being treated as a suspect.

Webb found this not to be the case, revealing that the pair spoke twice in the days before Smollett was charged.

Overall, Webb said that the case had been a “major failure of operations”, and that although he found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, the report had been submitted to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which would consider if there could have been a breach of legal ethics.

Responding to the report, Foxx’s office said it “respectfully disagreed” with Webb’s findings.

The statement continued: “Though state’s attorney Kim Foxx was not involved with the initial disposition of the Smollett case, she and the [Cook County State’s attorney’s office] remain steadfast that the office acted within its broad prosecutorial discretion.

“A prosecutor’s discretion is as broad as any in the law, and differences of opinion as to how a case was handled do not signify an abuse of discretion.

“Finally, it is important to emphasise that the [office of the special prosecutor] did not find any criminal activity or undue influence on the part of the State’s Attorney or the [Cook County State’s attorney’s office].”