When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.
That old adage has apparently been missed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago. An internal memo from the office that handled the Jussie Smollett case leaked to the media on Wednesday, and it makes it clear that officials are scrambling to do damage control — but could be making things worse.
Smollett faced 16 felony charges after he was accused of perpetrating an apparent hate crime hoax. It’s safe to say that almost nobody — from the mayor of Chicago to the city’s police force — believes he’s innocent, yet the actor was allowed to walk after all charges were dropped earlier this week.
The woman at the center of that controversy is Kim Foxx, the attorney who runs the prosecutor’s office. While the email memo does not have her name on it, it seems she or somebody she supervises is more interested in media relations than taking down criminals.
“We are looking for examples of cases, felony preferable, where we, in (exercising) our discretion, have entered into verbal agreements with defense attorneys to dismiss charges against an offender if certain conditions were met,” the email reads, according to Fox News.
Update: The FBI is now reviewing circumstances of why all the criminal charges against Smollett were dropped. Update 2: a leaked email from the prosecutor’s office show them scrambling to find other cases where charges were suddenly dropped under conditions like Smollett’s. pic.twitter.com/0kswrSbYD3
— Andy Ngo (@MrAndyNgo) March 28, 2019
“Nobody is in trouble, we are just looking for further examples of how we, as prosecutors, use our discretion in a way that restores the victim but causes minimal harm to the defendant.”
The last part of the message — “causes minimal harm to the defendant” — summarizes much of the controversy. Even left-leaning critics have blasted Foxx and her office for bending over backward to allow Smollett to go largely unpunished.
Why a prosecutor would want a possible 16-count felon who may have wasted police resources and deeply damaged national race relations to have a “minimal” outcome is still a mystery. But that slap-on-the-wrist attitude matches previous comments from Foxx.
“He was availed to an alternative prosecution model,” she said during an interview this week. “Alternative prosecution” apparently means “admit no guilt and face no hard consequences for an apparent hate crime hoax.”
The problem with this scandal is that authorities had the chance to send a message that nobody — regardless of political connections and fame — is above the law. Instead, the message they sent was exactly the opposite.
“This is an example of justice for the rich and powerful versus justice for the poor,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said on Thursday. “This is totally not typical.”
Then why is Foxx or so somebody in her office so desperate to pretend that it is? Why are prosecutors whose duty is to bring lawbreakers to justice acting as if they’re instead school counselors, patting people on the head and sending them on their way?
There is a time and a place for minimum sentences, of course. A teenager who falls in with the wrong crowd should have a second chance to get his life on track, for example.
But Smollett was a grown man who, by many reliable accounts, schemed to use the scars of America’s racial past to elevate his career. The lynching and “MAGA country” yarn he spun seemed almost purposely designed to spark distrust and hate. It appears that he used his fame not to heal but to further divide.
In other words, Chicago leaders had a perfect chance to stand by their “social justice” principles and clearly show that the law applies equally to all.
By letting Smollett walk with a minor fine and community service, not even having him admit guilt, they’ve instead shown that the Chicago machine is as ugly as ever. Those with connections sidestep justice, while the lower class get no such deals.
The real hoax is elitists who pretend that the system isn’t rigged and cover their rears instead of executing the law.
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