Cook County prosecutors must have worked overtime to get “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett off the hook for 16 counts of disorderly conduct.
After all, he wasn’t exactly squeaky clean.
In 2008, the actor pleaded “no contest” to a DUI in L.A., and to driving without a license and providing false information to law enforcement.
He was sentenced to probation and given a choice of fine or jail, according to the Associated Press.
Apparently prosecutors in L.A. aren’t as star-struck as prosecutors here appear to be.
But ordinary citizens seeking justice are outraged over the Smollett fiasco.
“I’m insulted and quite frankly heartbroken that all of this time, attention, detective work, manpower and hours upon hours were spent on this Jessie [sic] Smollett case, yet hundreds of murders go unsolved every year!” Deneen Bohanon-Silmon complained in an email.
Silmon’s 21-year-old son, Andre’ D. Bohanon, was robbed and killed in 2005 and that murder is still unsolved.
Meanwhile, there seems to be a new kind of criminal justice taking shape in Cook County.
Rather than going to court, Smollett was allowed to walk away without the state presenting their case.
Now Smollett’s lawyers are characterizing the dropped charges as proof of his innocence.
“The notion that this somehow exonerates him or that the prosecutors somehow believed he was innocent is very frustrating to [my] idea of alternative prosecution,” State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Over two dozen detectives and police officers spent three weeks investigating what police determined were false claims.
In a city where fewer than 1 in 6 homicides were solved in 2018, the waste of police resources was a crime in itself.
More important, why does truth no longer matter?
That’s what Adowa Watts wants to know.
Watts’s daughter, Tykina Ali, was fatally shot in the 2700 block of South Kedzie Ave. on Aug 23, 2016, while riding in a vehicle with an ex-boyfriend, Darnell Junious.
Junious claimed unknown assailants in another vehicle fired the fatal shots after rear-ending his car at a traffic light.
He admitted firing shots, but allegedly told police he threw the gun away, according to Watts.
“She had a gunshot wound on the left side of her head that blew off the back part of her head,” the mother told me.
Watts said Junious “drove around for a few hours, passing up hospitals” before taking Ali to West Suburban Hospital where she was DOA.
“When I got to the hospital, he did not have any blood on him nowhere which means he changed his clothes, because there was a splatter of blood all over his [car] seat,” she told me.
Watts is outraged that Junious was charged only with unlawful use of a weapon.
“Police came right out and said he was guilty of murder but they couldn’t prove it,” she said.
Less than six months later, Junious was sentenced for a domestic battery, attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault, resisting arrest, obstruction, and injury to a Berwyn police officer, in connection with an assault on another woman.
He was taken into custody in 2018, and is serving time in Pinckneyville Correctional Center.
Junious could be paroled as early as November 2020, which concerns Watts because he has allegedly made threats against her and other family members.
Watts said she, and a group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence, met with prosecutors for an outreach and counseling session attended by Foxx.
“We never got an answer to our questions about why the shooters weren’t charged. She kept saying that we are backed up and it’s not that they are not trying to get to the case,” Watts recalled.
“If this had happened politicians and police officers or doctors or someone like that, they would have done something already. We are nobody people.”
Watts faithfully attends hearings in the gun case, but says prosecutors continue the case every two months.
“I don’t understand it. They were only going to give him three years anyway,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the state’s attorney office told me last month the evidence in Ali’s case did not support a murder charge.
But the way Smollett’s case was handled shows prosecutors have a lot of discretion when it comes to how crimes are charged.
“I’m pissed,” Watts said.
“These guys do what they want to do. It is not fair. If a person is an entertainer and have money one thing happens. If you are just a normal person, nothing.”