After charges were dropped yesterday against ‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Eddie Johnson – the city’s highest-ranking police officer – have spoken out against the decision.
Smollett had been accused of filing a false police report in relation to an attack on Sunday, January 29, in which he claimed that two masked men had yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him, put a noose around his neck, punched him and poured a chemical substance on him. Persistent rumours, all of which Smollett denied, suggested that he had been involved in staging the attack. He was eventually charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the incident.
Following an unplanned court appearance yesterday, however, all charges against the actor were dropped. No one outside the court, including the city’s mayor and superintendent, was aware of this decision until the announcement was made.
A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said: “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, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
Records on Smollett’s case will now be sealed by the state. His attorney declined to elaborate on why this decision was made but said it was the “right” decision.
The Chicago mayor and police superintendent were attending a police graduation at Chicago’s Navy Pier when they were informed that the case had been closed, and both were angered by the news.
Mayor Emanuel has denounced the decision, calling it a “whitewash of justice.” Superintendent Johnson said that justice has not been served and that “it’s Mr Smollett who committed this hoax. Period.”
“I stand behind the detectives’ investigation,” Johnson added, pointing to the police investigation that had produced multiple charges against Smollett.
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago police department, has echoed this sentiment. “Chicago police detectives did an excellent investigation and their work was reaffirmed by an independent grand jury who brought 16 criminal counts,” he said on Twitter. He went on to paint Smollett’s willingness to adhere to terms set by prosecutors as a sign of guilt, saying “In our experience, innocent individuals don’t forget bond and perform community service in exchange for dropped charges.”
Chicago police detectives did an excellent investigation and their work was reaffirmed by an independent grand jury who brought 16 criminal counts. In our experience, innocent individuals don't forget bond & perform community service in exchange for dropped charges. https://t.co/P9rsvUMwwZ
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) March 26, 2019
Meanwhile, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, who oversaw the Smollett case, has told The New York Times that his office was not “exonerating” Smollett with this decision.
“We work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime,” he argued. “I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety.”
Smollett’s defence team have highlighted what they see as undue influence by the media and public opinion on Smollett’s treatment by the police. “Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” said attorney Patricia Brown Holmes. “This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong.”
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