On the morning of January 29, 2019, I was watching Fox and Friends during breakfast when an item on the chyron caught my eye: actor Jussie Smollett was the alleged victim of a vicious hate crime in downtown Chicago at 2:00 a.m. He claimed that two MAGA hat wearing white thugs attacked him, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck and called him racial and homophobic slurs before screaming “this is MAGA country” and running away. My initial reaction was one of skepticism – when has Chicago been anything but a bastion of liberal corruption? How would “MAGA country” ever describe Chicago? I also had doubts about the crime taking place on the coldest night in recorded meteorological history. A polar vortex had descended on the Midwest that was so strong it was colder there than at the North Pole– people were told to stay indoors because even a few minutes outside could cause irreversible lung damage. Mr. Smollett had a better chance of being attacked by a polar bear that night than by a human. Out of curiosity, I Googled “at what temperature does bleach freeze” because that’s sadly where my mind immediately went — in case you’re wondering, it’s 18 degrees Fahrenheit. It was at least 50 below with windchills, so I couldn’t help but be wonder what was happening. This incident also occurred within a week of the infamous Covington Catholic High School hate crime hoax, when white MAGA hat wearing teenagers were falsely accused of harassing a Native American; conservatives everywhere- including myself- are afraid to wear MAGA hats or patriotic apparel for fear of being doxxed, assaulted or worse. Wasn’t it just a bit too convenient to think racists had enough stones to openly commit a hate crime while wearing MAGA hats at that time? It seemed off to me, but I believe in “innocent until proven guilty” so I tried to restrain my cynicism and decided to withhold any further judgment one way or the other until I had more information.
Sadly, though, the mainstream media attempted no such restraint and immediately jumped on the “Justice for Jussie” bandwagon. Pundits were falling all over themselves to report on how President Trump’s election emboldened his white supremacist/ignorant rube/toothless/blue collar/racist/homophobic base, allowing for the rise of hate crimes. They loudly proclaimed that “this is America in 2019”, while I sat wondering what the fallout of this would be. If moral outrage could induce an orgasm, I’d wager there were many in the leftist media who were more satisfied that week than they had been in their entire lives. As time passed, however, it started to become clear that something was fishy at best. Dozens of Chicago police officers spent hundreds of hours of overtime (and by default put the taxpayers on the hook for that overtime pay) combing through CCTV footage from the most surveilled city in America to find any shred of evidence that could prove a crime had been committed. They found none. Photos of Mr. Smollett’s injuries were released, showing only a small cut under his eye and nothing more. I immediately thought of the tragic death of Matthew Shephard, the gay 23 year old whose tragic murder in the early 90’s led to the creation of hate crimes legislation. He was beaten so severely that he was literally covered in blood and didn’t even look human when his body was found hanging from a fence (witnesses said they thought he was a scarecrow from a distance). Wouldn’t a virulent hater do more than leave a superficial cut on someone’s face if they were trying to intimidate or possibly kill their victim due to his sexual orientation?
As evidence of a hate crime started to grow to the contrary, the left’s anger became even more strident. Any denial of the alleged crime was immediately considered the work of Nazis and white supremacists and to call Smollett out on social media was itself a type of Orwellian hate crime. Celebrities, presidential candidates and LGBTQ activists wasted no time in exploiting the growing farce by welcoming this innocent victim into their fold, all the while ignoring mounting evidence against him. Eventually, two Nigerian brothers, one of whom was an extra on Smollett’s show, Empire, came forward with an absolutely chilling story — they claimed Jussie Smollett paid them to buy rope and red hats to help him fake a hate crime. Video footage surfaced of them doing just that, and a copy of the check he alleged wrote to pay them off surfaced. Even more disturbing was the allegation that a few weeks prior to the alleged assault, Mr. Smollett had sent a fake death threat to himself at his studio and when the crushed up Tylenol in it didn’t get him enough attention, he supposedly arranged for the assault. Mr. Smollett was arrested on February 21st and charged with 16 felony counts related to the false attack. He claims he’s innocent and of course he has his right to be considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of his peers – that is the basic right afforded each and every criminal defendant in America and should be no different for Mr. Smollett.
My main concern is that this will be an O.J. Simpson 2.0 moment. As a young adult in college at the time of the trial and verdict, I remember watching Johnny Cochrane ask O.J. to try on the bloody glove at the crime scene while he crowed “if the glove don’t fit you must acquit”. Of course, it didn’t matter that leather shrinks when it gets wet and the glove had been soaked in blood. It didn’t matter that he tried it on over a latex glove or that it was rumored he’d been told not to take his arthritis medication so his hand would swell. All that mattered in the moment was the kernel of doubt the defense was able to plant in the minds of the jury. I have no idea what Mr. Smollett’s “bloody glove” moment will be, but no matter how this case ends, it won’t be pretty. Either he walks and white America continues to be vilified or he goes to jail and Chicago burns. I can’t see any other way this ends.
Well, in the time between drafting and posting this article (I took my time writing this and spent quite a bit of time editing myself so I wouldn’t appear offensive), the worm turned, necessitating my further reflection on this uniquely American situation. On March 26th, prosecutors suddenly dropped the charges without notifying the police. The police then demanded restitution, since it cost them over $130,000.00 of taxpayer money to investigate what they believed to be a hoax. Smollett refused to respond, and his attorneys cited that he had forfeited his $10,000.00 bond and had volunteered at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which was restitution enough. The Nigerian brothers have sued Mr. Smollett and his legal team, and within the last week, the police have made all the records from his arrest public, citing that he waived any right to privacy when he went on talk shows and discussed the crime in open forums. We will probably never know the 100% truth of what happened on that frigid night in Chicago, which is the true travesty of justice. Those involved deserved their day in court, their right to speak their version of events to their peers and to be judged once and for all. Without that, there will always be suspicion hanging over Mr. Smollett, the police, the prosecutors and the general public. American jurisprudence has been damaged as well because the creation of a two tiered justice system — one in which your status can buy your freedom even if it’s not deserved — is anathema to the founding principles upon which our country is based. We are a society where everyone, young or old, rich or poor, gay or straight, and black or white has the same rights to a fair trial when accused of a crime. If we start allowing the rich and well connected to have privileges the rest of us don’t have access to, the Bill of Rights will be moot, we will become a oligarchy and America as we know it will cease to exist.