|the justice system is counting on him to determine who did what|
Good. That invitation ought to assure the people of Cook County that Webb won’t make what should happen to Smollett the primary point of his probe. Many people in metropolitan Chicago now are
focused instead on an issue more basic to the administration of criminal justice here:
At each point along the timeline of this case, what’s the full list of outsiders — and their intermediaries — who tried to influence how Foxx’s office handled it? What prime mover motivated a politically connected lawyer to contact Foxx? And from start to finish, which other persons directly or indirectly sought to shape the decisions of prosecutors, or of others in law enforcement?
The people of Chicago and Cook County have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this case. As citizens who want a justice system that treats every defendant equally, and as taxpayers who pay the costs, they deserve to know about all the pressures on Foxx’s office.
And beyond these crucial questions of who all reached out to Foxx:
· Foxx’s office extracted charges against Smollett from a grand jury, then inexplicably dropped the case. On March 26, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats denied that dropping the charges signaled weak evidence or a desire for secrecy. “It’s a mistake and it’s wrong to read into the decision that there was something wrong or that we learned something about the case that we didn’t already know,” Magats told the Tribune. And on March 27, Foxx told the Sun-Times her office “had a strong case ... that would have convinced a trier of fact” that Smollett had lied about staging a hate crime. Yet two days later, on March 29, Foxx wrote to the Tribune that aspects of the evidence and testimony would have made the trial outcome “uncertain." Mr. Webb, what forces drove all these switchbacks?
· Who all engineered the secret decision of Foxx’s office to drop the charges — and then seal official records ― during an unannounced court session?
· On March 27, Foxx told WBEZ: “But every single day on cases that law enforcement partners work diligently on, there are people who get similar arrangements, people who get diversion, people who get sentences that are probably not what some people would want. Every single day.” Mr. Webb, how often do Cook County defendants facing 16 felony charges “get similar arrangements”?
These questions go to the heart of whether Cook County dispenses equal justice, in the public eye, to all defendants ― not just those who have insider leverage. With help from testimony under oath, telephone records and wide latitude from Judge Toomin, Webb can determine that.
Tell us, Mr. Webb, what drove the peculiar prosecution of this case. Are public suspicions that a celebrity’s friends intervened true or false? Did people whose names we haven’t yet heard exploit their personal connections to persuade prosecutors? In what way, if any, is this a Chicago tale of politics, ambition and clout?
We won’t be surprised if Webb faces suggestions that he instead limit himself to Smollett’s behavior and whether the actor should be charged anew with criminal counts.
But whatever the temptation to dwell on Smollett, the crucial mission here is to tell the people of Cook County how Foxx’s office gave one defendant such a sweet deal — and at whose urging?
Mr. Webb, for the people of Cook County, please find the truth. The whole truth. Under oath.
Editorials reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board, as determined by the members of the board, the editorial page editor and the publisher.