CHICAGO (CBS) — The new indictment of actor Jussie Smollett issued Tuesday not only raises new questions about his case and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of it – it also comes down weeks before the Illinois primary election.
CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov on Tuesday examined what the new indictment could mean for Foxx’s bid for reelection.
The State’s Attorney’s race is a hot one. Three people – attorney and former alderman Bob Fioretti and former prosecutors Bill Conway and Donna More – are challenging Foxx in the Democratic primary.
Foxx has admitted she made mistakes with the Smollett case and has tried to put it behind her.
But the new indictment will likely bring the case back to the forefront, and Foxx’s opponents all used it to challenge her on her decision making – at the very least.
More excoriated Foxx and accused her of wrongdoing in response to the new indictment.
“Now we know why Kim Foxx has refused to talk about the case. The Special Prosecutor’s decision is evidence that she was unlawfully influenced by calls from influential politicians and celebrities when she dismissed 16 felony counts against Jussie Smollett,” More said in a statement. “This can no longer be considered just an error in judgment or a disappointing lack of transparency. There may be significant wrongdoing on the part of the State’s Attorney.”
Conway claimed Smollett got a “sweetheart deal” from Cook County prosecutors.
“What’s concerned me about this case since the beginning is that a connected, Hollywood celebrity got a sweetheart deal that residents of Cook County do not get. It seems that not only does the special prosecutor agree, but that Kim Foxx could provide him no evidence to the contrary,” he said in a statement. “While I’m disappointed that she has repeatedly lied to the public about this matter, I want to assure the residents of Cook County that as State’s Attorney I will fight for everyone, regardless of who you know or what zip code you’re from.”
Fioretti took it all a step further and issued a statement saying Foxx should resign.
“The reasons Kim Foxx should resign are many,” Fioretti said in the statement. “It is a race between corruption, incompetence and personal dishonesty to decide which is worse in her office,” Fioretti said.
The statement said Foxx should be ashamed of how she handled the case – claiming that Fox allowed phone calls from important people to affect her decision-making, lied about recusing herself, and gave Smollett special treatment as a celebrity.
“The State’s Attorney’s handling of the Smollett case shook the faith of Cook County residents in the justice system,” Fioretti said in the release. “It makes people wonder why celebrities get special treatment when we are all supposed to be equal under the law. They also wonder how their State’s Attorney can get away with lying to the public.”
But supporters also question the timing by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
At a news conference Tuesday morning, the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss of the Trinity United Church of Christ compared it to former FBI Director James Comey announcing the reopening into the investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before the 2016 election.
“It’s very interesting that Dan Webb at this moment, as we’re about a month away from an election, is now offering charges. This seems very similar to when James Comey intervened in reference to the national election,” Moss said. “And so we are seeing at this moment some politicization of this particular election.”
Foxx’s own campaign also invoked Comey and the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office charged Jussie Smollett with multiple counts, and today the Special Prosecutor did the same. What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive,” the Foxx campaign wrote.
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Moss was one of more than a dozen religious leaders who just Tuesday morning came out to back Foxx’s reelection bid. She has powerful support.
At the same news conference with Foxx, the Rev. Janette Wilson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition shut down a question about Smollett.
“No, this press conference is not about Smollett, and we’re not going to allow to her to – we keep going over and over this,” Wilson said. “Ask her about her record. Ask her about the reforms that she made in Cook County.”
People from U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle all endorsed Foxx months ago.
But publicly, Foxx has never been able to shake her office’s dismissal of Smollett’s charges completely.
CBS 2’s Kozlov has reached out repeatedly to the State’s Attorney’s office, but no one there had commented as of 5 p.m.
A representative of Foxx’s campaign echoed what ministers said Tuesday morning – questioning the timing of the indictment and accusing it of further politicizing the justice system.