Warren Endorses Prosecutor Who Dropped Charges Against Jussie Smollett For Fabricating Hate Crime

Elizabeth Warren
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January 28, 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) endorsed the reelection of the Illinois state attorney currently under investigation for her handling of former Empire actor Jussie Smollett's hate crime hoax.

Warren announced her endorsement of State Attorney Kim Foxx on Tuesday, calling Foxx "a champion invested in rethinking the country's approach to criminal justice reform." Foxx is best known for dropping the felony charges against Smollett after the actor faked a racist and homophobic hate crime.

Smollett claimed last January that a pair of masked men attacked him on the streets of Chicago, using racist and homophobic slurs before shouting "This is MAGA country." A police investigation found that Smollett hired two men to fake the attack.

Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and received 16 felony charges for filing a false police report. Foxx's office dropped the charges and asked that Smollett's records be sealed without notifying Chicago police of the agreement in advance. Smollett did not admit guilt as part of the deal, and local police were reportedly "furious" with the decision.

Though Foxx claimed she recused herself from the case after speaking to a relative of Smollett at the request of Michelle Obama's former chief of staff, Foxx later revealed she only recused herself "in a colloquial sense." As part of her "recusal," Foxx said she handed the case to an "acting state's attorney." A county judge later ruled that there is no provision in Illinois law for an "acting state's attorney" and that a judge should have appointed a special prosecutor to take over the case.

Foxx is now under investigation for her handling of the hoax. A Chicago Sun-Times article detailing Warren's endorsement—which came the day before the one-year anniversary of the alleged attack—did not mention Foxx's role in the Smollett case.

Warren's endorsement of Foxx could stem from a desire to appeal to the scrutinized attorney's influential supporters. Musician John Legend endorsed Foxx on Wednesday, as did Color of Change PAC, a progressive nonprofit that describes itself as the "nation's largest online racial justice organization."

Foxx's Democratic challengers have criticized the prosecutor for her handling of the Smollett case.

"Jussie Smollett was treated differently. Everybody can admit that," challenger Bob Fioretti said.

Since taking office in 2016, Foxx has declined to prosecute more than 5,000 cases.