‘Empire’ star owes Chicagoans, hate crime victims an apology
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“Empire” star Jussie Smollett might as well save some big money and publicly apologize to Chicagoans for allegedly orchestrating a hoax that squandered the city’s resources.
While he’s at it, he should also apologize to the real victims of hate crimes, and to Trump supporters for depicting them as racists and homophobes.
On Thursday, the 36-year-old actor was arrested on charges of filing a false police report — a report that led to a round-the-clock search for two homophobic, racist attackers.
Smollett turned himself in and was released on a $100,000 bond.
For a man who allegedly cooked up an elaborate scheme as a publicity stunt, Smollett fled the county jail flanked by an entourage for cover.
Although Smollett’s attorneys vowed to launch a vigorous defense, it’s not looking good.
You can never predict what’s going to happen in a courtroom, but prosecutors laid out a fraud case that was so compelling, it could have been an episode of the old “Perry Mason” TV show.
Using videos from surveillance cameras, cell phone and bank account records and even a receipt from a beauty supply shop, prosecutors were able to establish a close relationship between the actor and two brothers, Abimbola (Abel) and Olabinjo (Ola) Osundairo, whom police initially questioned as persons of interest.
The brothers laid out a blow-by-blow account of the alleged scheme, corroborating the evidence detectives had compiled.
After the hearing, First Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier read from the state’s bond proffer before a gaggle of reporters outside the courtroom:
“Defendant Smollett also stated he wanted the brothers to catch his attention by calling him an “Empire F—Empire N—-. Defendant Smollett further detailed that he wanted Abel to attack him, but not hurt him too badly and give him a chance to appear to fight back. …Defendant also included that he wanted Ola to place a rope around his neck, pour gasoline on him and yell “This is MAGA country,” she said.
“At 12:49 AM, there was a phone call between Smollett and Abel which lasted three minutes. During this call, Smollett told Abel the attack would take place at exactly 2:00 AM at the preset location,” Lanier said.
After Smollett’s arrest, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson chastised the actor during a news conference. Police contend Smollett orchestrated the publicity stunt because he was dissatisfied with his salary for his role on “Empire.”
“When we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” the superintendent said.
“How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these claims?” he asked.
I don’t know anyone who believed Smollett’s tale that two masked men attacked him in the wee hours in the Streeterville neighborhood, and one of the men put a noose around his neck.
Still, Smollett was treated like a victim all the way up to the point the detectives had gathered evidence to the contrary.
“Why would anyone, especially an African-American, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations,” Johnson said on Thursday.
On Thursday, Johnson called on Smollett to apologize to Chicago and to do the right thing and reimburse the city for the police resources that were squandered investigating this case.
I wholeheartedly agree.
But the actor should also apologize to all of the people who publicly supported him.
For instance, presidential hopefuls Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), are being hounded because of tweets they posted immediately after Smollett, an openly gay black man, said he was attacked in a hate crime.
Harris called the Smollett claim a “modern-day lynching,” and Booker used the incident to push the urgency of an Anti-Lynching bill designating lynching as a federal hate crime.
There is also concern that because of Smollett, future claims of racist or homophobic attacks will be discounted.
But the Chicago police took Smollett’s charges seriously enough to discover that the attack was a fraud, according to prosecutors.
Police pieced together a timeline of events that made it clear Smollett had tried to play them and us for fools.
To our credit, Chicago gave Smollett the benefit of the doubt while detectives vigorously investigated his claims.
In doing so, the much-maligned department gave the city and the rest of the country a close look at stellar police work.
Two words: I’m sorry.
That’s not too much to ask. It would go a long way toward healing fresh wounds this bizarre incident has caused.