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A Special Prosecutor Found Big Failures In The Handling Of The Jussie Smollett Case

Dan Webb, the Cook County special prosecutor, also said an investigation didn't find evidence that warranted any criminal charges against State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx or her colleagues.

Posted on August 17, 2020, at 12:59 p.m. ET

Jussie Smollett walking outside a courthouse with reporters behind him
Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters

Jussie Smollett arriving at court for his arraignment on renewed felony charges.

An Illinois special prosecutor appointed to investigate the handling of the Jussie Smollett case said Monday he had found "substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures" by Cook County officials who handled the original charges against the former Empire star.

Dan Webb, the Cook County special prosecutor, said in a news release that his investigation had not uncovered evidence that warranted any criminal charges against State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx or her colleagues. But he faulted her office for a "major failure" over their shock decision in March 2019 to drop charges against Smollett.

Webb also said Foxx made numerous false or misleading public statements in the wake of the decision to drop criminal charges against the actor, who had been facing more than a dozen felony counts for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed to be the victim of a hate crime.

In February, Webb filed six new counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett, saying that "further in the interests of justice." That case is still pending.

The actor, who is Black and gay, originally filed a police report in January 2019 claiming he had been attacked in the middle of the night by two men who yelled MAGA chants and anti-gay slurs, put a rope around his neck, and poured a chemical substance on him.

But authorities said the actor actually paid two brothers to stage the attack in order to draw publicity he could leverage during his salary negotiations on Empire.

Smollett has denied that he manufactured the incident.

He was required to complete 15 hours of community service and forfeit a $10,000 bond as part of the decision to drop the original charges against him.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx in February 2019.

But Webb said that original dismissal "surprised" and "shocked" many Cook County officials he interviewed, especially given prosecutors did not learn any new information in the period between when they originally charged Smollett and when they dropped their case.

Webb also said Foxx continued to communicate with Smollett's sister, Jurnee, through phone calls and text messages after learning that the actor was no longer being investigated as a victim, but rather as a suspect.

Still, Webb said he did not unearth evidence of any criminal behavior, such as bribery or obstruction of justice, by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He also found no evidence that Foxx or her prosectors were improperly swayed or influenced by third parties.

Not all the evidence from Webb's investigation could be released, he said, because parts were drawn from grand jury material that is still under seal. Webb said he would file a motion on Monday to release that information to further restore public trust in the justice system.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.