Chicago’s new mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot is tackling the Jussie Smollett controversy head-on just a day after being elected into office and she isn’t letting the Cook County State’s Attorney off the hook for dropping the 16-count felony charges against the Empire actor.
Lightfoot, who made history as the first Black woman and the first openly gay woman elected to the office of mayor in the third-largest U.S. city, expects the state’s top prosecutor Kim Foxx to provide a full explanation that offers more insight into her decision to suspend prosecuting Smollett in an alleged fake hate crime attack, reports The Wrap.
“The State’s Attorney’s office here which made the decision unilaterally to drop the charges has to give a much more fulsome explanation,” Lightfoot said during an interview with Craig Melvin on MSNBC Wednesday.
“We cannot create the perception that if you’re rich or famous or both that you got one set of justice — and for everybody else it’s something much harsher. That won’t do and we need to make sure that we have a criminal justice system that has integrity.”
Lightfoot hesitated when asked if she thought Smollett was innocent but conceded that the evidence against him was compelling.
“I believe that everybody is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” she said. “But I saw — as I’m sure you and your listeners saw — a very compelling case, with video tapes, witness statement and other information that looked like he had staged a hoax, and if that happened, he’s got to be held accountable.”
It seems Lightfoot’s comments aligns with her predecessor’s, Mayor Rahm Emanuel who took Foxx to task for her decision to drop the charges against the Empire actor, calling it a “whitewash of justice.”
“Do I think justice was served? No,” a seemingly angry Emanuel previously said. “I’ve heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so America could know the truth. But no, they chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system … I stand behind the detectives’ investigation.”
Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters gathered in downtown Chicago, both in protest and in support of Foxx over her handling of the bizarre Smollett case.
Civil-rights activists as well as the city’s police union held competing demonstrations to express their varying views on Foxx’s handling of the criminal case against actor, whose 16-count felony indictment was dismissed by Foxx’s office with little warning or explanation two weeks ago.
According to ABCNews.com, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, joined by members of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, led a rally for Foxx Monday morning, praising her work ethic and noting that “she’s done a good job and she’ll do a better job in the future.”
Smollett on the other hand has maintained his innocence and said in a speech after the charges were dropped that he has been truthful from the beginning.
“I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said during a press conference after the charges were formally dropped. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.”
Smollett has not spoken about the case again since the charges were dropped.