The Jussie Smollett case took a shocking turn on Tuesday when the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dropped all the charges against the “Empire” actor and ordered the case to be sealed.
Now the Cook County clerk’s office has told ABC News that no written motions were filed as part of the dismissal and the case had been already removed from their database.
“Cook County clerk’s office tells @ABC they were shocked that no written motions were filed with the court in connection with today’s surprising dismissal in the Smollett case. On top of that, the case has been wiped off their database as if it never existed,” tweeted ABC’s senior national correspondent, Terry Moran.
Cook County clerk’s office tells @ABC they were shocked that no written motions were filed with the court in connection with today’s surprising dismissal in the Smollett case. On top of that, the case has been wiped off their database as if it never existed. pic.twitter.com/KFKJp9yt7h
— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) March 27, 2019
The Daily Wire’s Emily Zanotti reported earlier Wednesday morning that the Chicago Police Department released “complete but redacted” files relating to the case as part of a Freedom of Information Act request from WGN News and CWB Chicago. CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told ABC these would be the only files released.
Guglielmi said that after the documents were released, the Department received a court order requiring them to keep all other records confidential. An original order mandating the case was sealed appeared not to apply to city or police records, but an updated order put out Wednesday was broader and included police and city records, according to ABC’s Josh Margolin.
Margolin further reported that the CPD spokesman told him this “gag order” would keep police from discussing the investigation, which resulted in “an investigative file that’s about 8 inches thick.”
Keeps getting more bizarre: @AJGuglielmi says the gag order keeps secret an investigative file that’s about 8 inches thick and bars @Chicago_Police from discussing the investigation. https://t.co/yjSjZIMXEK
— Josh Margolin (@JoshMargolin) March 27, 2019
As Zanotti reported, it was “a highly unusual move” to remove the case from the books, as even expungement doesn’t usually start until five years after a case is closed.
Scott Greenfield, a New York-based attorney, told the Daily Wire that while he doesn’t have experience in Chicago courts, he’d “never heard of any system that ‘wipes’ records off the computer.”
“Records always remain, even if notated dismissed,” he added. “This is unheard of.”
Greenfield also wrote on Twitter that “nothing, but nothing, is ever ‘wiped’ off the database.” Documents may be sealed or marked as dismissed, “but it never really disappears.”
The Cook County clerk’s office did not respond to a Daily Wire inquiry for clarification.
The case began on Jan. 29, when Smollett told Chicago police that he had been attacked by two white men wearing ski masks and Make America Great Again hats while returning from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. that night during freezing temperatures. He claimed the men physically assaulted him and poured bleach on him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs, and said, “this is MAGA country.”
The documents released as part of the FOIA request show that within two days – Jan. 31 – police already suspected Smollett had fabricated the incident, reclassifying the case from “aggravated battery” to a “public peace violation.” Further evidence revealed the men believed to have been Smollett’s alleged attackers were of Nigerian descent and had been paid $3,500” by Smollett for a fitness and nutrition program. The “attackers,” were brothers, who told police the check was actually for staging the hate crime and that Smollett also paid for the supplies they used during the alleged attack. Smollett was then charged with 17 felony counts, which were dropped on Tuesday.
Smollett still faces an FBI investigation for allegedly mailing himself a hateful letter before devising the attack.