More’s the pity — it looks like another court loss for Jussie Smollett and his legal team.
In a Friday ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against an emergency motion filed by Smollett and his lawyers to drop new charges against him and to fire the special prosecutor who brought them, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The attorneys for the former “Empire” actor argued Cook County Judge Michael Toomin didn’t have the authority to appoint the special prosecutor that brought new charges against him and that the judge had misinterpreted the law.
That special prosecutor charged him with six counts of disorderly conduct. For those of you who’ve followed the case, you may know that Smollett originally faced 16 counts of the same charges last year when the alleged hoax was initially uncovered.
These were dropped at the behest of prosecutor Kim Foxx. Without admitting guilt, Smollett forfeited his $10,000 bond and spent a few desultory hours of community service with the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
However, Judge Toomin ruled that Foxx’s strange “recusal” — in which she verbally said she was stepping away from the case but then named her top deputy as the prosecutor — made the decision to drop charges invalid, as prosecutors don’t get to choose their successors.
Foxx had verbally recused herself because she had met with a Smollett family member early in the process at the behest of Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, Tina Tchen. She did not, however, submit the formal paperwork for a recusal.
Smollett’s attorneys had argued that Toomin only had the authority to appoint a special prosecutor if Foxx had properly recused herself and that the only person who could challenge the validity of the agreement in court was Smollett.
“(If) there, in fact, had been a defect in the authority to prosecute Mr. Smollett, the only person who could properly challenge the validity of the proceedings would be Mr. Smollett — and he has not done so,” their motion to the court read.
The state’s high court, however, dismissed the motion without comment.
“Motions for supervisory orders are extraordinary remedies and not usually granted,” Smollett attorney William Quinlan said in a statement, according to NBC News.
“We believed the unique circumstances of this case warranted filing the motion. We will now follow the standard appellate procedure.”
Smollett pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were filed Feb. 11, on Feb. 23.
The charges came roughly a year after Smollett allegedly staged a 2 a.m. attack against himself. The actor claimed that two men attacked him, put a noose around his neck and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” invoking President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The story began collapsing at an impressive clip, and not just because few people would mistake staunchly Democratic Chicago for “MAGA country.”
Law enforcement would eventually come to believe the so-called assailants were actually two brothers paid by Smollett. Former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said that the attack had been faked by Smollett in order to “promote his career,” a move that didn’t quite work out as planned.
The brothers — Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — are now state’s witnesses and would testify against Smollett if he goes to trial, Fox News reported.
Meanwhile, the case has imperiled the career of Foxx, once a rising star in state politics.
Foxx now faces three challengers in the Cook County state’s attorney primary, a contest that would otherwise be considered a foregone conclusion. Foxx’s campaign has said she considers the new charges to come at a questionable time, comparing them to the 2016 announcement by then-FBI Director James Comey that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server just prior to the election.
“What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision” a statement from the campaign said, adding the charges “can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the four challengers — Foxx, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti and Donna More — have raised $16.3 million in a race that’s 180 percent more expensive than the 2016 primary.
Foxx remains the favorite, but there likely wouldn’t be any question at all if there hadn’t been any deal with Smollett.
As for the actor, he finds himself where he would have been had he faced the original charges in the first place. His career, such as it is, remains in stasis and the case still casts a long shadow — as well it should. If Smollett did what he was accused of, he faked a hate crime designed to divide America.
When we countenance that and wave it away with a penalty of a few thousand dollars and a few hours with Rev. Jackson’s charity, that’s not justice.
Claims that this is political or some kind of witch hunt underscore the failure of critics in some quarters to understand the gravity of what Smollett is accused of and the fundamental failure of Kim Foxx’s team to grasp that. We can only hope the same mistake isn’t made this time around.
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