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Smollett documents show prosecutors debated how to explain dropping of charges

Cook County State


Smollett documents show prosecutors debated how to explain dropping of charges

Prosecutors struggled over how to describe their reasoning for dropping all charges against actor Jussie Smollett, according to documents released Friday.

In an email sent to prosecutors by Smollett’s lawyer the day before the charges were dropped March 26, the lawyer, Patricia Holmes, suggested they say Smollett is a “dedicated citizen of Chicago who volunteers and contributes regularly in the Chicago area community,” the New York Times reported.

On Friday, Cook County (Ill.) State’s Attorney Kim Foxx made public more than 2,000 pages of documents related to the case, in which the 36-year-old “Empire” cast member claimed to have been the victim of an assault in Chicago.


Foxx had recused herself from the case, citing false rumors that she was related to Smollett. Previous explanations suggested she recused over contact she had with Smollett family members during the investigation.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (Associated Press)

The documents also show that Foxx’s team struggled over whether she should recuse herself at all. Texts with her chief of staff showed Foxx wasn’t happy about having to recuse. She also called the rumors of them being related as “racist” and said she was told by an ethics officer that she “had to do it.”

According to the Times story, the state’s attorney’s office and the defense lawyer traded a series of emails in which they tried to neutralize the language so Smollett would neither be depicted as innocent or guilty of staging the alleged attack, and also tried to scale back his depiction as a contributor to the community.

In March, Foxx’s office said she hadn’t “formally” recused herself and had used the term in a “colloquial” sense rather than a legal sense.


Smollett was charged on 16 felony counts that included making a false police report when he allegedly staged what was supposed to look like a hate crime against him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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