CHICAGO — Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx spoke out Wednesday for the first time since charges were dropped against Jussie Smollett.
Smollett was accused of staging a hate crime attack in January. A grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, but in a surprise move, prosecutors agreed to drop those charges and have the court records sealed.
“Based on the nature of the offense and his background, this was a just outcome," she said. "Justice takes many forms.”
Foxx said dropping the charges was not an anomaly and instead an example of an “alternative prosecution.”
“The Alternative Prosecutions Unit gives people, even those we believe committed a crime, opportunity to participate in some alternative to court involvement,” she said.
Foxx listed community service and restitution as examples of these alternatives.
“Some people don’t plead guilty and are still afforded these opportunities,” Foxx said.
Smollett forfeited his $10,000 bond and performed recent community service with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Foxx said the $10,000 Smollett forfeited is the maximum amount of restitution a person can pay. She said that the money, along with his community service, was a “measure of holding him accountable.”
"I cannot offer him the opportunity to forfeit his bond and have the conditions that we offered if I did not believe he was guilty," she said. "I have an ethical obligation if I believe someone is not guilty, I have to drop the charges without conditions."
She cited Smollett’s Class 4 felony charges as reason why her officer proceeded with an “alternative prosecution.”
“In Illinois, it's the lowest level of a felony. It’s a step up from a misdemeanor,” Foxx said. “Most likely, people who are convicted of a Class 4 aren’t sent to prison. They are giving some form of probation or diversion. ... If they don’t have a long rap sheet or a violence in their background, and because of the nature of the offense, alternative prosecution is a method we recommend.”
Foxx said had Smollett's case gone to trial, he would not have been sentenced on all 16 counts, nor would he have plead on all 16 counts.
"On this level of felony, he was not going to get prison time," Foxx said.
In February, Foxx's office announced she was recusing herself from the Smollett case in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest "based upon familiarity with potential witnesses."
Foxx said she recused herself from the case a week before it was announced to the public.
She recused herself after intervening on behalf of a Smollett family friend and former Michelle Obama aide Tina Tchen.
Tchen released a statement that said, "My sole activity was to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim's family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public."
“When it became clear during the course of the investigation, Mr. Smollett had gone from a victim to a potential suspect, I met with my chief ethics officer and we talked about the appearance of impropriety,” Foxx said. “And while it wasn’t wrong to talk to a family member of a victim, should this change, we don’t want anyone to believe for a moment that would impact whether we would charge Mr. Smollett or not.”
The case was eventually handed off to First Assistant State's Attorney Joe Magats.
Magats admitted he believes Smollett is guilty, but his office's priority is on violent crime.