Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said she recused herself from the Jussie Smollett case in response to rumors she was “related” or “closely connected” to the “Empire” actor’s family, according to documents released Friday.
When Foxx in April stepped aside from the investigation of an alleged hate crime, she said it was out of “an abundance of caution.” Her office said the move was intended to address potential concerns of impartiality “based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”
The 2,000 pages of newly released documents from the prosecutor’s office included text messages in which Foxx sheds light on the controversial decision, writing that she was responding to talk about her connection to the Smolletts.
The office’s former ethics officer, April Perry, recommended that Foxx recuse herself, Foxx said in a text.
“April told me I had to do it. There were rumors she claims that I was related or closely connected to the Smolletts. I told her that wasn’t true. She said it was pervasive among CPD and that I should recuse. I thought it was dumb but acquiesced. It’s actually just racist,” Foxx said.
In a separate text, Foxx said her former spokeswoman Kiera Ellis approved the “Bull****” statement about her recusal. Both Perry and Ellis left their positions in April.
The case drew national attention
Smollett had told police that on January 29 two attackers yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him, tied a rope around his neck and poured an unknown substance on him.
But after an extensive investigation, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack and take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
The case was national news for weeks and the dismissal of charges prompted critics to accuse Foxx’s office of treating Smollett differently because he is a celebrity.
In March, prosecutors announced they were dismissing the 16 charges against Smollett in the hate crime turned false report case, saying the actor forfeited his $10,000 in bail money and had done community service.
In another text message release Friday, Foxx wrote: “Regardless of whether or not Smollett has an official record, this incident is going to follow him around for the rest of his life.”
The documents also included search warrants related to the brothers accused of attacking Smollett, only to be cleared when prosecutors announced the actor had orchestrated a hoax.
In the warrants, detectives tied Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo to a threatening letter sent to Smollett on the “Empire” set. Detectives said a safe in the brothers’ home contained the same style stamps used to send the letter.
Another warrant revealed that Smollett had a phone conversation with someone from a number registered to one of the brothers hours before the attack.
Chicago police said Smollett hired the brothers to attack him as part of the alleged crime.
The two brothers confessed to their involvement, with one saying he filled a hot sauce bottle with bleach and poured it on Smollett.
Meanwhile, an independent investigator is looking into Foxx’s handling of the case.
In a statement, Foxx said she hopes that inquiry and the transparency in releasing the documents, restore public trust in her office.
“I am sorry that despite the best intentions, our efforts were less than what was required of the moment,” Foxx said.
CNN’s Sheena Jones, Lisa Respers France, Nicole Chavez and Jason Kravarik contributed to this report.