Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, has come under scrutiny for her role in the dismissal of charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett.
On March 26, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Illinois dropped all 16 felony counts against the 36-year-old actor, who was arrested last month for allegedly staging a hate attack on himself in January.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community, and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the office said in a statement.
Ahead of the dismissal, text messages between Tchen and Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx emerged, showing how the former reached out to relay “concerns” of Smollett’s family.
“I wanted to give you a call on behalf of Jussie Smollett and family who I know. They have concerns about the investigation.”
Hours later, Foxx received a message from a female relative of Smollett’s, who claimed that she had received the number from Tchen.
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times, Foxx said that Smollett’s relative expressed concerns regarding leaked information, which media outlets have attributed to “police sources.”
“They had no doubt about the quality of the investigation, but believed that the FBI would have a tighter lid on the information.”
Foxx, who recused herself from the case on Feb. 13, pointed out that the conversation took place at the time when Smollett was treated as a hate crime victim, not a hoax suspect.
— Tina Tchen (@TinaTchen) October 15, 2017
Tchen, a lawyer herself, defended her actions.
“I know members of the Smollett family based on prior work together,” the 63-year-old said, according to ABC 7. “Shortly after Mr. Smollett reported he was attacked, as a family friend, I contacted Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who I also know from prior work together.”
“My sole activity was to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public.”