In a stunning move Tuesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office — without any prior warning to the Chicago Police Department or the mayor — announced that it had dropped all 16 felony charges against actor and singer Jussie Smollett and wiped his record clean despite believing the charges against him were warranted. Amid instant, massive backlash, including from Chicago’s Democratic mayor, State’s Attorney Jamie Foxx, who was in contact with members of Smollett’s family during the investigation, has attempted to downplay the decision, insisting that the lenient treatment of Smollett is “available to all defendants.”
But Chicago-based crime reporting site CWB Chicago says the evidence makes clear that Smollett’s “sweetheart deal” is not business as usual like Foxx’s office wants the public to believe. In a report published Wednesday night, CWB Chicago lays out the case that Smollett is indeed enjoying special treatment.
“CWBChicago researchers today located eight recent cases that align closely with Smollett’s,” CWB reports. “Like Smollett, each of these individuals had no prior adult criminal charges in Cook County. The alleged incidents took place in Chicago and were handled by Chicago police. Each defendant was charged with only one crime: a single felony count of disorderly conduct-filing a false police report (720 ILCS 5.0/26-1-A-4). Smollett was charged with sixteen counts under the same statute.”
The outlet then provides summaries of each case and its results, starting with Smollett, who was suddenly cleared of all 16 charges, only having to sacrifice a $10,000 bond for the massive resources dedicated to the investigation into his “hate crime” attack report that police ended up determining was “orchestrated” by the actor himself. The case took only 33 days to resolve, and Smollett was determined to have already provided enough “community service” with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition not to warrant any further required hours.
Below are two of the eight examples of similar cases presented by CWB Chicago (formatting adjusted):
RR, 27, and KM, 27 — Tourists RR and KM were accused of falsely reporting to Chicago police that they were robbed of $20,000 in cash and property when their GPS led them into Lower Wacker Drive. Days to resolution: 11 months (RR), 13 months (KM) Outcome: RR pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two-years probation, 30 hours of community service, and fined $584. KM also pleaded guilty. She was sentenced to two-years probation, five days time served, 30 hours of community service, and she was fined $447. Both will have criminal records in Cook County.
CT, 33 — Chicago police allege that CT falsely reported that his Audi had been stolen with his 7-year-old daughter sleeping in the back seat. Investigators found that the story was false and CT admitted to lying after receiving his Miranda warning. Days to resolution: 22 Outcome: CT pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one-year probation and an unknown number of community service hours. Because he was required to plead guilty, he has a criminal record.
As is evident from just these two alone, other defendants have clearly not enjoyed the same treatment Smollett did, including the quickness with which his case was resolved, his extremely lenient “community service” sentencing, his ability not to plead guilty, and his cleared criminal record and sealed case, the latter CWB Chicago describes as “particularly odd.”
“Even when individuals are acquitted of crimes, the court record remains accessible to the public until the individual seeks expungement — a 60- to 120-day process that entities such as the Chicago Police Department have an opportunity to contest,” the outlet reports. (Read the full report here.)
On Tuesday, Foxx’s office issued a brief statement announcing that Smollett’s 16 felony charges were dropped and the case sealed. “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution,” the office announced.
Smollett and his lawyers portrayed the decision as a complete exoneration of the actor, with Smollett reiterating that he is the true victim in this case. Amid intense backlash, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats issued a clarification to the press, stressing that the office “didn’t exonerate him” and saying it’s “a mistake and it’s wrong to read into the decision that there was something wrong or that we learned something about the case that we didn’t already know.”
Following the decision, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a fiery joint press conference Tuesday in which they condemned the state’s attorney’s decision. “This is a whitewash of justice,” said an outraged Emanuel. “Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else.”