Jussie Smollet, “Empire” TV show actor who alleged to have been the victim of a homophobic, racist hate crime by Trump supporters in downtown Chicago, has had all 16 felony counts against him suddenly dropped by the same department that initially charged him despite seemingly unambiguous evidence that he had manufactured his story.
In late January, Smollett asserted that he was attacked by two men who poured a chemical substance on him and put a noose around his neck while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, and shouting “this is MAGA country.” This led to a police investigation, which initially was unable to find any evidence for Smollett’s claims, and the actor himself refused to turn over his phone despite it supposedly containing proof.
In mid-February, the story shifted dramatically when two Nigerian-American brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, extras for “Empire,” confessed to police that Smollett had paid them to fake the hate crime. The authorities obtained a check written to them by Smollett, as well as unambiguous video footage of the brothers buying the exact supplies described as part of incident. It was alleged that Smollett had faked the crime for attention as he was dissatisfied with his recently negotiated salary. Smollett found himself facing 16 felony charges, one for each lie, after a decision by a grand jury.
Now, all charges have been suddenly dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney Office, the very same authority which had charged him in the first place. In addition, first assistant state’s attorney Joe Magats, who took leadership of the case after the state’s attorney Kim Foxx recused herself, has stated that “this was not an exoneration. To say that he was exonerated by us or anyone is not true. We believe he did what he was charged with doing.”
As a result, the case documents have also been sealed, and the incident officially wiped from Smollett’s record, as noted by a senior national correspondent for ABC News:
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
Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney initially in charge of the investigation, had unsuccessfully petitioned Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to hand over the case to the FBI, as revealed by Kevin Graham, chief of the Chicago police union, in a letter which he sent before the charges were dropped to the Department of Justice, asking for an investigation of Foxx’s conduct. Foxx allegedly contacted Johnson after she herself had been reached out to by Tina Tchen, a local attorney and the former chief of staff for Michelle Obama. Foxx had also been in contact with members of Smollett’s family pressuring her regarding the case.
After her efforts seemingly failed, Foxx quietly, though allegedly not formally, recused herself on February 13, though her office did not reveal this until six days later. Foxx was elected to her position in 2016. Investigation has uncovered that she was significantly supported by a Super PAC called Illinois Safety & Justice, which received $333,000 from George Soros during the primary period, and afterward a further $75,000.
Smollett himself, as if prescient that time was on his side, has consistently stuck to his story and officially pleaded not guilty on March 14. He has continued to invoke his identity as a gay black man as pivotal to the importance of the alleged attack, which had originally been seized on by several Democratic presidential candidates, including Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The only permanent repercussions Smollett has suffered have been forfeiting his $10,000 bail, and performing 16 hours of community service for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition before the charges were dropped.
Superintendent Johnson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have both reacted with fury to the outcome, with the mayor savaging it as “without a doubt a whitewash of justice, and sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power, you’ll get treated one way, [while] other people will be treated another way.”
For the millions of Americans watching this strange drama unfold, it is ominously difficult to come away with any other impression than that individuals such as Jussie Smollett simply aren’t subject to the same standards of justice as ordinary people. Despite all the evidence that the actor fabricated a hate crime for personal gain, knowing he could exploit the dangerously flammable national state of race relations in the US; and indeed despite the statement of the prosecutors’ themselves that they still believe he was guilty; the gay, black, intersectional member of the ruling Hollywood/DC class has had all charges dropped and his record scrubbed clean in a hearing which reportedly lasted only minutes.
Most recently, law enforcement sources have stated that the FBI is reviewing the decision to drop the charges.