In a stunning turn of events yesterday, all 16 charges against actor Jussie Smollett were suddenly dropped by the state’s attorney. Smollett had been charged by the Chicago Police Department for filing a false police report and for staging an alleged racial and homophobic attack against him by two MAGA-supporters.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped the charges in return for him doing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago. My colleague Charlotte, has a good run-down today on the politics behind the scenes.
Just what kind of community-service punishment are we talking about?
You might think that Smollett should be picking up trash along the highway in a bright orange jumpsuit or scrubbing graffiti from public buildings. Something labor intensive, publically visible, and a real deterrent from repeating this behavior in the future.
Instead, Smollett got off with a slap on the wrists. He served as a glorified intern for a couple days and used his star power to dazzle school kids and perform for PBS. If that’s not the height of celebrity privilege in the justice system, I don’t know what is?
According to a letter penned by Jesse Jackson Sr., the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Smollett spent 8 hours on Saturday at his organization’s office stuffing membership envelopes, selling merchandise at their bookstore and helping them with marketing ideas, critiquing the weekly broadcast program, and helping them plan a choir.
Smollett was back at the organization again on Monday for another 10 hours for a grand total of 18 hours.
Smollett also received a letter of support from an ‘Empire’ music director for making a surprise visit to a Chicago-based African-American arts school in January and taping the “Chicago Voices” concert on PBS.
This was enough to satisfy the state’s attorney?
It’s a shame. The outrage from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Police Department, the right and the left is well warranted.
$10,000, a few hours of letter stuffing, and performing for tv cannot make up for the man hours and resources spent by the Chicagp Police Department in piecing together what very likely was a hoax by Smollett.
Smollett is a wealthy, well-connected celebrity who claims to fight for victims and had been a vocal opponent of the Trump Administration — going as far as to produce a music video to fight back against the "race-baiting, bigotry and xenophobia of the current administration." Smollett seems to be the real race baitor here as he falsely claimed white Trump supporters were his attackers.
This episode makes a joke of the justice system for Smollett, but it’s no laughing matter for the men and women who are serving overly harsh penalties and who will face immense obstacles once they leave prison because of their criminal record.
Smollett had good lawyer, big names and political fixers working on his behalf. Most people who will touch the justice system do not. He can now go on with his life as though nothing happened, but most former inmates charged with lesser crimes live with the ramifications for the rest of their lives.
This is celebrity privilege and it stinks.