Did “institutional failures” help Jussie Smollett get away with staged crime?
Yesterday, the Jussie Smollet case made news again. Prosecutors were admonished in a special investigation for mishandling Smollett’s case. The special prosecutor said he found acts of “abusing discretion” but nothing criminal.
Illinois is reissuing charges against Jussie Smollett for allegedly lying about a “racist, homophobic attack” he said he suffered while in Chicago due to mishandling of the case. Smollett maintains that he was attacked and some Smollett fans speculate that Chicago PD is trying to cover for one of their own.
What do these findings mean for Jussie Smollett’s case, and will he face prosecution this time? Considering the facts of the case, was this an institutional mismanagement, an oversight, or merely a way for Chicago attorneys to wash their hands of the case?
The so-called attack on Jussie Smollett
In early 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett went to Chicago PD claiming to have been attacked by “white men wearing MAGA hats” who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him. He also claimed they doused him with chemicals and approached him with a noose.
As racial tensions were high in the U.S., especially surrounding the presidency of Donald Trump & his administration, Jussie Smollett’s experience rocked the nation. However, when Chicago PD went to investigate, they found a completely different set of events happened.
In February 2019, Chicago PD raided the apartment of two Nigerian-American extras on Empire. They found the weapons used to assault Jussie Smollett, including ski masks & MAGA hats. From records, they found out that the extras were paid $3,500 to pretend to be Trump supporters and assault Smollett.
Jussie Smollett was arrested for disorderly conduct and staging a fake hate crime. His lawyers made a deal with prosecutors to drop criminal charges. In exchange, Smollett would perform fifteen hours of community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond.
At the same time, prosecutors formed a sixteen-count indictment with overwhelming evidence against Jussie Smollett. The decision-makers in the non-prosecution agreement didn’t learn about this new evidence, which came in two weeks before they reached the agreement.
Prosecutors misled the public
According to the special investigation, prosecutors in charge of Jussie Smollett’s case misled the public on the nature of the charges. They were also wrong to have ignored new evidence against Smollett. While the special prosecutor Dan Webb found Cook County acted erroneously, it wasn’t to criminal levels.
Specifically, Webb criticized Illinois State Attorney Kim Foxx & her administration for giving Jussie Smollett a too-lenient non-prosecution agreement. He also found that she misled authorities when she claimed that Smollett’s case was handled similarly to other cases.
As to the leniency of the agreement, Smollett wasn’t required to admit guilt or wrongdoing, which should have been a condition. Instead, Jussie Smollett maintained his innocence and still insisted he was attacked. He blamed an addiction to ecstasy when he finally admitted guilt.
An election year
Cook County Republicans see a rare opening to win this year in a deep-blue city. Although no criminal charges were brought to the prosecutors, they will have to answer to the public for their mishandling of Jussie Smollet’s case during an election year.
State’s attorney Kim Foxx, who is Illinois’ Democratic incumbent, may see a close race due to her mishandling of the Jussie Smollett case. State Republicans are anticipating a close race, and perhaps a victory for State’s attorney for the first time in over twenty years.
Jussie Smollett faces six new counts of felony disorderly conduct. These six counts stem from separate reports of lying to the police and were recommended by Dan Webb. Smollett was sued in civil court by the City of Chicago and reached a settlement of over $100,000 to pay police for overtime. He also paid $1,000 per lie he told Chicago PD.
As for Foxx and her team, she might not get off scot-free despite no criminal charges. If Webb files his findings with Illinois’ Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. If he does, they can make Foxx face disciplinary action, up to disbarment.
Foxx denies any wrongdoing, releasing a statement rejecting Webbs’ “characterizations of its exercises of prosecutorial discretion and private or public statements as ‘abuses of discretion’ or false statements to the public.”