The actor Jussie Smollett saga has been making news for almost two years – since January 22, 2019, when the actor called police to say he had received an envelope at his Chicago studio location where he films “Empire.” It ended in a Chicago courtroom where Smollett was found guilty on five counts of felonious Disorderly Conduct – enough to get him up to three years in prison on each count. Of course that will not happen. I am guessing he will do six months to one year.
In his original complaint to police, Smollett said the envelope contained a threatening letter and a mysterious powder. It turned out to be Tylenol. Maybe Smollett was anticipating the headaches to come.
The incident did not garner much attention – practically none. It was not a big enough story to hit the national news – and that may be what led to Smollett’s next encounter with ALLEDGED racism and homophobia.
Just one week later, Smollett again summoned police, this time to his Chicago apartment to report that two masked guys wearing MAGA hats recognized him from the television show and attacked him on the street – shouting racist (n-word) and homophobic (f-word) pejoratives. He claims that they said, “this is MAGA land” and no place for the likes of Smollett – an obvious attempt to tie the “attack” to Trump supporters. Chicago as MAGA land? Smollett should have set up his scam in a red community.
Smollett reported that they hung a noose around his neck and sprayed him with an “unknown substance.” In fact, he was still wearing the noose when police arrived. The “unknown substance” turned out to be bleach. (I hope he was not wearing his best clothes.)
The attack happened at 2:00 a.m. on a very, very cold night in the Windy City – the sort of night one stays inside. Smollett said he was going out for a Subway sandwich. The old refrigerator must have been pretty bare.
(There is one part of the story with which readers may be able to help. Personally, I have never known a Subway to be open all night – especially in a cold and blustery Chicago winter. Was the Subway near him actually open for business?)
Police were able to see two “persons-of-interest” on a nearby video cam – and the veracity of Smollett’s report was raising questions. In response, the Smollett family released a statement saying:
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice.”
The family should have been careful in what they hoped for, because in this case the police did apprehend the perpetrators. And that is where the Smollett story went off the rails. They were black – not white as Smollett implied. He could not have made that mistake even with masks and gloves – and their strong Nigerian accent c
should have been a clue. But he told police that he could not give any identifying characteristics.
And Smollett did get what he was hoping for – national publicity. He repeatedly told the story of his horrific experience to fawning and sympathetic newsies all over the national media landscape — even as more and more doubts about his version of events arose.
The more his story fell apart, the more Smollett emphasized his innocence and the accuracy of his police report. Unfortunately, evidence, testimony of the “attackers’ and logic all combined to establish that Smollett had scripted, casted, directed and starred in a totally fiction street performance.
It turned out that the two “assailants” were friends and occasional employees of Smollett. A raid on their home produced all the physical evidence – bleach, rope and MAGA hats. Store videos showed the men purchasing the stuff just before opening night. And they had the check Smollett used to pay the men. The alleged assailants told police that Smollett was upset that his letter gambit did not generate enough publicity.
Still Smollett claimed to be the victim and was further “hurt” to learn it was a couple guys he knew and employed. He was angered by the reports that it was all one big publicity-seeking hoax.
The Cook County District Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case because of her association with key individuals in the case. On February 20, Smollett was charged with Felony Disorderly Conduct for filing a false charge – and on March 8th, a Grand Jury indicted him. Still Smollett insisted the attack was real.
Then Chicago’s reputation for political corruption came into full view. On March 26th, all charges against Smollett were suddenly and inexplicably dropped — allegedly from behind-the-scenes pressure from his friend Kim Foxx. The records ordered to be sealed. This brought an unusual angry response from Chicago’s Police Chief Eddie Johnson. And yet again, Smollett hit the media circuit to proclaim his innocence and the accuracy of his account.
Not so fast. On May 23rd, an Illinois judge ordered the records to be made public. On June 21st, a Cook County Judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate … ready for this? … the decision to drop all the charges. The prosecutors were being investigated. It also reopened the possibility that Smollett still could be charged and face a trial.
While Special Prosecutor Dan Webb did not find sufficient legal wrongdoing on the part of Foxx, he did indict Smollett on six counts of Felony Disorderly Conduct. And thus, the trial that is now ending in Chicago.
Let’s face it. Smollett is not only a criminal and a pathetical liar, but he is also very stupid. He set up a scheme that could not have possibly succeeded. He could not have left more clues and hard evidence against him if he had tried. If my prediction at the top of this commentary proves to be inaccurate, you would be seeing a failure of American justice.
Smollett should spend time in jail. He not only attempted a boneheaded publicity stunt and perjured himself on the stand, but he also attempted to pour fuel to the volatile race debate being carried on across the nation. This was as much a political stunt as a publicity stunt. He has done damage to both sides of that political divide. His false racist and homophobic claims have undermined the credibility of blacks and gays who have legitimate complaints. He attempted to malign an entire segment of the American public while exposing himself as a black activist willing to create fraudulent propaganda.
Humor always has the seeds of truth, and perhaps no one has better captured the absurd humor of Jussie Smollett than Dave Chappelle. Check it out.
So, there ‘tis.