Chicago, IL – Embattled Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx found herself in the hot seat yet again after a Cook County judge accused her office of giving special treatment to celebrities.
Candace Clark, 21, found herself a victim of the state’s attorney’s double-standard practices after she was charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for making a false police report, WFLD reported.
Clark is accused of giving someone access to her bank account and then reporting the money as stolen to police.
“Empire” star Jussie Smollett, by comparison, was indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct after he staged a fake hate crime on himself and reported it to police.
Authorities said Smollett staged the hoax attack and told police he was beaten up by white President Trump supporters on Jan. 29 who told him Chicago was “MAGA country” and hurled homophobic and racist slurs at him.
Despite the indictment, Foxx’s office announced they were dropping all charges against Smollett and claimed it was the way in which many such cases are adjudicated when the offender isn’t a threat to anyone.
The actor also had to forfeit his $10,000 bail and do 16 hours of community service.
Clark, by contrast, is facing a much more aggressive prosecution by the same attorneys that let Smollett go for a crime one-sixteenth as serious as what the actor was charged with by a grand jury.
Prosecutors demanded that the 21 year old make full restitution of $2,800 and serve deferred prosecution, something they did not ask be required of Smollett, WFLD reported.
But the judge had no problem calling the prosecutors out for the inequity in a Rolling Meadows courtroom.
“I’d like to know why Ms. Clark is being treated differently than Jussie Smollett,” Cook County Judge Marc Martin told prosecutors. “It’s a disorderly conduct case. A lot less egregious than Mr. Smollett’s case. I have a problem with it.”
“Ms. Clark is not a movie star, she doesn’t have a high-priced lawyer,” the judge continued. “And this smells big time. Your office created this mess. There’s no publicity on this case. Press gets ahold of this; it’ll be the newspaper."
Clark has no prior criminal history and has pleaded not guilty to the charge against her, WFLD reported.
“I’m not Jussie Smollett,” Clark said. “I wish I was, but it’s OK. I’ll get my justice.”
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has made a number of very public missteps in recent weeks that have resulted in calls for Foxx’s resignation and a federal investigation of her office’s handling of the Smollett case.
The decision to drop the charges against the “Empire” star was met with outrage by the Chicago police chief and the mayor, and President Donald Trump called for a federal investigation.
“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!” President Trump tweeted.
Foxx defended her office’s handling of the actor’s case by claiming that there was nothing unusual about deferred action in a case like Smollett’s.
She told WBEZ that the public just doesn’t understand how the legal system works.
She said that Smollett was treated like any other citizen and given no celebrity status in the disposition of his case.
“You know, I think that there is a lot of confusion,” Foxx explained. “For people who do this work every day, who recognize what the charges are — this is a Class 4 felony — for people who are in the weeds of this, we recognize that the likelihood that someone would get a prison sentence for a Class 4 felony is slim.”
She told WBEZ that people are having trouble processing “the intricacies of the justice system” and “don't understand alternative prosecution or diversion or alternate outcomes outside of prison or lengthy probation.”
Foxx insisted that Smollett’s charges were disposed of like any other similar case would be.
“If you took the celebrity out of this and looked at Class 4 felonies, or if you were able to isolate out what happens with other disorderly conduct cases when the defendant is not a celebrity, and to see if this is out of line, and I think that gives greater clarity,” she told WBEZ.
But then a memo was leaked that showed the prosecutor’s office was desperately searching for similar examples of case dispositions in an attempt to prove their point.
Even as the prosecutor’s office claimed there was nothing unusual about deferred action in a case like Smollett’s, WLS reported that staff in the state’s attorney’s office was scrambling to find cases to use in their own defense.
“We are looking for examples of cases, felony preferable, where we, in exercising our discretion, have entered into verbal agreements with defense attorneys to dismiss charges against an offender if certain conditions were met, such as the payment of restitution, completion of community service, completion of class, etc., but the defendant was not placed in a formal diversion program,” read a memo that was circulated in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, according to WLS.
“Please ask your [assistant state’s attorneys] if they have examples of these types of dispositions and we will work with them further to figure out on what case it was done,” the memo continued. “Nobody is in trouble, we are just looking for further examples of how we, as prosecutors, use our discretion in a way that restores the victim, but causes minimal harm to the defendant in the long term.”
Foxx had announced she was recusing herself from the Smollett case on the day the actor was taken into custody because she said she had facilitated conversations between Smollett’s family members and the police department.
But she didn’t refer the case to another jurisdiction as is required for recusal, and instead referred it to her top assistant prosecutor. She later told reporters she had never “formally” recused herself from the Smollett case.
Most recently, that state’s attorney was forced to recuse herself from the case of a man charged with battery on a peace officer after she appeared on Facebook in a selfie with the defendant while her office was prosecuting him.