Chicago (CBS) — Kim Foxx has asked the Cook County Inspector General to review her handling of the Jussie Smollett case, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
“A former prosecutor, Inspector General Blanchard has been conducting independent inquiries for Cook County for over a decade,” Foxx said. “Ensuring that I and my office have the community’s trust and confidence is paramount to me, which is why I invited an independent review of this matter. I welcome this investigation and pledge my full cooperation and the cooperation of my office as IG Blanchard conducts his review.”
The Cook County Inspector General’s Office said they are pursuing an inquiry into circumstances surrounding the resolution of criminal charges in the Smollett case.
The inspector general says his office has never been voluntarily called upon to take a look at the handling of a state’s attorney’s case.
Greg Walker, a former Cook County prosecutor and now a defense attorney, says the inspector general is appointed by Toni Preckwinkle, who has political ties to Foxx.
“The agencies are independent of one another, so one does not influence the other,” Walker said.
He believes Foxx was right to call for the review.
“I believe that was necessary, especially with all the scrutiny from the FOP, the police department, because of the way the thing was handled,” Walker said. “I think it says a lot about her office with her doing that.”
There is no time frame for when the report will be completed, but the inspector general says he understands the public interest in the case.
Thursday, a City of Chicago attorney filed a lawsuit against the “Empire” actor to recoup money spent to investigate his claim of a racist and homophobic attack.
The city says it was fake, but Smollett maintains he did nothing wrong.
Last month, Cook County prosecutors dropped 16 counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett, after he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail, and performed 16 hours of community service.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel then had the city’s Law Department send Smollett a letter titled “Re: Repayment of Investigation Costs for False Police Report,” requiring “immediate payment of the $130,106.15 expended on overtime hours in the investigation of this matter.”
The March 28 letter said, if Smollett does not pay within seven days, the city could prosecute him for making a false statement, and take him to civil court to seek up to three times that amount as damages, plus court costs and attorney’s fees.
Smollett’s legal team responded to the letter last week, saying Smollett will not pay the $130,000 for the cost of the investigation as it is “unconstitutional”.
“Your letter is both factually and legally flawed, and Mr. Smollett will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum,” a statement signed by Mark Geragos, of the Geragos and Geragos law firm, said. “Your claim that Mr. Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory.”
Read the full letter here:
Geragos’ letter further states the “threats” in the city’s letter and “the defamatory statements they rely upon” are not protected by the First Amendment.
Smollett’s lawyers said they will depose Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, the Osundairo brothers, who allegedly were paid by Smollett to conduct the attack, and attorneys Gloria Schmidt and Jorge Rodriguez if the city filed a civil action against the actor.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, and said he was “truthful and consistent” from the start, but prosecutors have said they do not believe he is innocent, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the actor owes Chicago an apology.
With a civil case, the standards for proving he staged the January attack would be lower than in criminal court. While a criminal trial requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction, a civil trial would require the city to prove only that a “preponderance of evidence” – meaning it’s more likely true than not – that the incident was a hoax orchestrated by Smollett.
Smollett said he was attacked by two men, who doused him with a chemical and put a noose around his neck in January.