HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Last month, a criminal case against a Hoffman Estates, Ill., woman became tied to the legal drama surrounding Jussie Smollett when a judge, saying the situation "smells, big time," asked why the woman was being "treated differently" than the actor by Cook County prosecutors.
And now the woman has acquired a new attorney to help her fight the felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, the same crime Smollett was accused of in a 16-count indictment before charges against him were suddenly dropped.
Candace Clark, 21, said she is happy that an attorney has stepped up to take her case pro bono, though she is sorry that she has created extra media buzz around Smollett.
"They're trying to bring his (Smollett's) case back up, and I'm sorry about that, Jussie," Clark said Wednesday in an interview at her Hoffman Estates residence.
But her new attorney, William E. Conway, believes there is a double standard, echoing comments made last month by Circuit Court Judge Marc Martin.
"I want to emphasize that she doesn't know anybody, she's not connected," said Conway, after he had filed an appearance Wednesday on behalf of Clark at the Cook County courthouse in Rolling Meadows. "We're at this level of justice determined by whether someone is connected or not. Justice should be blind to that."
Conway said he decided to enter the case after reading and seeing news reports in which Martin criticized prosecutors for handling Clark's case differently from Smollett's.
Smollett, the "Empire" television actor, was charged earlier this year with filing a phony police report in Chicago in which he said he was attacked and beaten by two men shouting racial epithets. His felony case was dismissed in exchange for performing two days of community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bail bond.
Clark was arrested in March and charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report "regarding funds that went missing from her bank account," according to court documents. She had no prior criminal background in Cook County, authorities said.
Prosecutors offered Clark deferred prosecution, meaning she would have to make restitution, obtain a GED and appear in District 9 Court at 26th Street and California Avenue in Chicago monthly or biweekly over a period of time. The charges would then be dismissed.