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Report cites 'operational failures' in handling of Jussie Smollett case

Report cites 'operational failures' in handling of Jussie Smollett case
The Office of the Special Prosecutor report on the the Cook County State's Attorney's Office handling of the  case of former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett (shown at trial) was released Monday. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A special prosecutor's report found "operational failures" in Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office's handling of the case against former Empire actor Jussie Smollett.

Judge Michael Toomin on Monday, signed the order to release the 60-page report by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, obtained by ABC 7.

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Toomin appointed Webb on Aug. 23, 2019, with two directives, according to the report.

The first was to further prosecute Smollett, if there were reasonable grounds to do so, after Foxx's office dropped charges earlier the same year.

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The second was to conduct an independent investigation of Foxx's office's handling of the case and to commence prosecution if any crime was suspected.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor did not find evidence to support criminal charges against Foxx or any individual working at the CCSAO, according to the report, but found evidence that the CCSAO had "operational failures" in the case.

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"The OSP did develop evidence that establishes substantial abuses of discretion and operational failures by the CCSAO in prosecuting and resolving the initial Smollett case," the report found.

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Smollett was originally charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct related to filing a false police report that he was a victim of a racist and homophobic attack, which he orchestrated in the Streeterville neighborhood of Cook County, Ill., in March 2019.

Nineteen days later, Foxx dropped the 16-count indictment, citing his "volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago."

Webb noted in the report that the dropping of charges "caused significant public speculation regarding whether such an outcome was an appropriate use of discretion and consistent with how the CCSAO handles cases that are not as high profile."

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The report said that Foxx told the OSP she was surprised that Smollett did not plead guilty to any charge in the initial 16-count indictment.

It also found there was a breach in "obligations of honesty and transparency" resulting from "false and misleading statements" to the public regarding the reason for the initial dismissal of the Smollett case.

The misleading statements included that Smollett had no criminal background, when he had a prior misdemeanor conviction out of California from 2007 for driving under the influence, driving without a license, and lying to police, for which he received 24 months probation.

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The CCSAO also falsely represented that $10,000 was the most Smollett could have been ordered to pay in restitution, and falsely represented that the case was dismissed due to evidentiary issues, according to the OSP report.

Smollett was indicted again in February 2020 on six counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports to police after a six-month investigation by Webb as a result of Toomin's first directive, and earlier this month, he was convicted on five of six counts of felony disorderly conduct.

He was found guilty for lying to police on all but the sixth count, which involved changing his statement to Det. Robert Graves on Feb. 14, 2019, from a "White attacker' to "pale-skinned."

Smollett faces up to three years in prison but he is likely to receive a sentence of probation because he has no prior felony conviction, some experts have said.

Prior to Smollett's conviction, Toomin had twice denied Webb permission to release the full details of the investigation.

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