Had Jussie Smollett’s case gone to trial, it’s unlikely that any of the results would have included time in prison for the “Empire” actor, the top prosecutor in Chicago said Wednesday.
State’s Attorney for Cook County Kim Foxx told CNN affiliate WLS on Wednesday that even if the celebrity had been found guilty of filing a false police report, the punishment was more than likely going to be what he eventually paid.
“If he’s found guilty on a Class 4 (felony) the likelihood was he was going to get some type of, perhaps, restitution, community service, not prison,” she said. “And so, if we can get to the same outcomes, if we get to the same measures of justice without going through the court process, we do that.”
Prosecutors dropped the 16 charges of filing a false police report on Tuesday, after Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and spent 16 hours doing community service over the weekend.
Tina Glandian, one of Smollett’s attorneys, said her client wavered on whether to voluntarily forfeit the bond, but chose to do so because the cost to him would have been far higher if he had to spend the next year of his life preparing for and going through a trial.
She said the community service had been “falsely represented” and that Smollett has long been a person who does volunteer work. She told “Anderson Cooper 360˚” that there was no court-ordered community service.
She said if prosecutors could have proven the case, they never would have dismissed it.
The sudden dismissal prompted ire from city officials, and the court’s decision to seal the records in the case angered many observers.
The state’s attorney, a Democrat who was elected in 2016, was asked whether she thought Smollett was guilty of lying to police.
“He chose this alternative prosecution method. A court has not found him guilty,” said Foxx, who recused herself from the case a week before Smollett was charged. “I believe based on the facts and the evidence that was presented in the charging decision made by this office, this office believed that they could prove him guilty.”
While she thinks the evidence was strong, Smollett very well could have been acquitted by a jury, Foxx told WLS.
That’s why in this case, and 5,700 others over the past two years, prosecutors – in this case, Foxx’s first assistant, Joe Magats – tried to get the defendant to agree to what Foxx referred to as a diversion program.
For instance, drug addicts charged with possession are often offered that the counts will be dropped if the defendant agrees to treatment and meetings, she said.
About one in 10 cases in Cook County goes to trial, she said.
Foxx said she understands that skeptics think Smollett got special treatment because he is a celebrity, and she doesn’t want people to believe there are two kinds of justice.
“I understand why people are emotionally attached to what happened in this case,” she told WLS. “I don’t diminish that, at all.”
Foxx said she ran on a platform of justice reform and making sure the office used its resources wisely to make communities safe.
She said the onus was on her office to explain to the public that resolutions in this case are not only available to someone like Jussie Smollett but also to “someone from the neighborhood.”