Hate crimes

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Police Superintendent Still Think Jussie Smollett Is Guilty—and Are Furious He's Going Free

"Where is the accountability in the system?"


Jose M. Osorio/TNS/Newscom

Immediately following the Illinois state attorney's move to drop all charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) held a press conference with Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Both men were blithely furious that Smollett would not be facing justice—and it was clear that they were just as angry with the prosecutors as they were with Smollett.

"Where is the accountability in the system?" asked Emanuel. "You cannot have, because of a person's position, one set of rules apply to them and another set apply to everyone else."

Emanuel explained that he stood by the Chicago police department's work in the case, and cited the 16 charges brought against Smollett by a grand jury as evidence that the case was worth pursuing. Both Emanuel and Johnson suggested that if Smollett was truly innocent, he should have been more eager to prove it in court.

This is all a bit much. Grand juries are notoriously willing to bring charges, thus the famous saying, "a grand jury could indict a ham sandwich." Moreover, Smollett should not be expected to want to go to court. It's the state's job to prove he's guilty, not his job to prove he's innocent. If prosecutors are going to just give up the case, only requiring Smollett to forfeit a small fee and do some community service, it would be insane of him to object.

Emanuel and Johnson are convinced that the police had compiled an impressive amount of evidence, and were apoplectic that the prosecution was not moving forward. Reading between the lines, it definitely looks like there's some bad blood between them and the prosecutors. State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case after exchanging text messages with Smollett sympathizers, and Chicago's police union has demanded an investigation. Foxx's offices reportedly gave police zero forewarning that the case was about to be dropped (and possibly waited to make the announcement until top brass were otherwise disposed).

The state's attorney has tried to frame the abandonment of the case as a win for the city, taking solace in the fact that Smollett agreed to perform community service. It's also a matter of priorities.

"Here's the thing—we work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime," said Assistant State's Attorney Joe Magats. "Public safety is our number one priority. I don't see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety."

Magats maintained that there was no issue with the evidence.

"We stand behind the investigation, we stand behind the decision to charge him and we stand behind the charges in the case," he said. "The mere fact that it was disposed of in an alternative manner does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities in the case or the evidence."

Without being able to see the evidence, it's tough to say which side is right. But none of this really changes what the public knows about the Smollett case. Whether or not the state's attorney wanted to bring the matter to trial, it remains fairly indisputable that the culprits were two Nigerian brothers who knew and worked with Smollett. If the actor was involved—something that still seems likely—the best remaining option for bringing him to trial is the FBI's investigation of the threatening letter he received in the mail.