CHICAGO -- At the urging of a politically connected lawyer, State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx asked Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn over the investigation of Jussie Smollett's reported attack to the FBI, according to communications provided to the Chicago Tribune.
Foxx reached out to Johnson after Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, texted Foxx saying the actor's family had unspecified "concerns about the investigation." Tchen, a close friend of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's wife, said she was acting on behalf of the "Empire" actor and his family. A relative later exchanged texts with Foxx.
The exchanges began Feb. 1, three days after Smollett claimed two men approached him near his downtown Chicago apartment building, yelled racists and homophobic slurs, hit him and put noose after his neck. It would still be 2 1/2 weeks before he was charged with making the story up, but some media outlets were already starting to question the actor's account, citing unnamed police sources.
"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson," Foxx emailed Tchen back on Feb. 1. "I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation."
The same day, Foxx texted with Smollett's relative, whose name was blacked out in copies released by her office.
"Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask," Foxx wrote. "Trying to figure out logistics. I'll keep you posted."
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"Omg this would be a huge victory," the relative replied.
"I make no guarantees, but I'm trying," Foxx replied.
Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said Smollett's relative was specifically concerned about leaks to the media that purportedly came from the Police Department.
"When she initially engaged in the communications, Mr. Smollett was still believed to be the victim of the crime," Ellis said. "As the investigation started to change and it became a possibility that he could actually be a suspect, that is when she made the decision (to recuse herself)."