Jussie Smollett update: Thousands referred for alternative prosecution by Cook County prosecutors haven't completed process

ByChuck Goudie, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Friday, March 29, 2019
Jussie Smollett update: Prosecutors' surprise deal raises new questions
The ABC7 I-Team uncovers new information about the Jussie Smollett dismissal deal.

CHICAGO -- New data obtained by the ABC7 I-Team from the Cook County State's Attorney's office sheds more light on the program cited this week in relation to Jussie Smollett's surprise case dismissal deal.

In interviews following the decision to dismiss the case, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx and First Assistant State's Attorney Joe Magats said that Smollett's case resolution wasn't as unusual as it appeared because 5,700 people participated in a similar program since Foxx took office.

WATCH: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defends officer's decision in Smollett case

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defended her office's decision to drop charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.

As the I-Team first reported Thursday, Cook County public data shows that only approximately 3,600 cases have been disposed of through alternative prosecution during Foxx's tenure. Questioned about the disparity in the numbers, State's Attorney's Office officials first sent the I-Team a list of what they claim to be more than 6,000 cases that were referred for alternative prosecution during the Foxx administration.

After an I-Team review of those cases showed that the final disposition of many didn't result in an alternative prosecution, State's Attorney Office officials now say that the 5,700 number cited in the wake of the Smollett dismissal is the total number of cases referred -not the number of cases that were successfully resolved through an alternative program.

"Once referred, they may not accept or qualify for programs that have a screening process we cannot control such as Mental Health Court," wrote Cook County States's Attorney's Office Chief Communications officer Tandra Simonton.

She writes that the 3,600 cases highlighted by the I-Team "only shows individuals who graduated their program successfully. Individuals still in the programs have yet to complete it aren't represented. Individuals who fail an alternative prosecution program aren't represented."

She also said that if the person in the alternative prosecution program is involved in one of the "court" style programs (e.g. Drug Court, Veteran's Court), they first have to plead guilty - then complete the program for the charges to be marked as nolle prosequi.

Simonton tells the I-Team that 8,109 felony offenders have participated in alternative prosecution programs during the Foxx administration, but some of those entered the program before Foxx took office.

The I-Team's analysis of open data shows 3,614 cases were disposed of as part of a successful alternative prosecution since Foxx took office. That means that more than half of the offenders who have or are in the process of participating in an alternative prosecution have either failed out or are still trying to complete the program.

Regardless, it's now clear Smollett's unusual dismissal was not part of or patterned after a typical structured alternative prosecution agreement.

Patricia Brown Holmes, one of Smollett's attorneys, told the I-Team Thursday that there were no conditions to be met for his dismissal, other than forfeiture of bond, and the state law that governs alternative prosecutions was not applied in his case.