The cast of "Empire" wants Jussie Smollett back on TV. The victims of 5,520 serious crimes would beg to differ — at least those who still can speak.
In response to my Freedom of Information Act request, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) told me that criminals perpetrated 5,520 offenses in the Windy City between January 29, when the black, gay actor first reported that he suffered a racist, homophobic beating, and February 20, when prosecutors indicted him for concocting the whole thing.
Officials specifically accused Smollett of staging a hate crime against himself — apparently to stoke publicity, stir public sympathy and secure a pay increase. Prosecutors eventually charged him with 16 felonies including disorderly conduct, filing a false police report and repeatedly lying to cops about this fantasy assault.
Smollett claimed that masked, white racists punched him, called him an "Empire f-- n-----," slid a noose around his neck, and then yelled, “This is MAGA country!” This detail let the viciously anti-Trump Smollett blame his plight on the president and his 62 million supporters.
CPD quickly re-assigned 24 detectives from other cases to this one. In alliance with federal authorities, CPD executed 50 subpoenas and warrants for financial papers, telephone records, and social-media statements. Cops also watched video from 55 municipal surveillance cameras and personal devices. “We interviewed over 100 individuals in a canvass of the area and a follow-up canvass as our investigation expanded,” said Police Commander Edward Wodnicki. Cops plowed some 1,000 hours into this inquiry before accumulating $130,106.15 in related overtime.
This was a total waste of time and talent.
The 5,520 Chicagoans who suffered these acts of lawlessness are Jussie Smollett’s true victims. At a minimum, they requested the assistance of a police department needlessly strained by Smollett’s destructive imagination.
The “white” racists proved to be Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo — two body-building American brothers of Nigerian descent — whom Smollett hired for his phony hate crime. This entire “attack” was as fictional as "Empire." The show’s producers initially announced “no plans” to reinstate Smollett to the cast. They dropped him from the drama’s final two installments last season. However, they have not killed off Jamal Lyon, Smollett’s character. So, he could return next season in a likely ratings bonanza — and a new nadir in popular culture.
Watching Smollett in anything but a perp walk would be especially infuriating given this fact: Rather than incinerate the aforementioned bounty of law-enforcement resources trying to confirm Smollett’s socially divisive fit of extreme narcissism, cops could have busied themselves probing and possibly preventing the following crimes that took place during their investigation of the Smollett fiasco:
• Murders: 18
• Criminal sexual assaults: 104
• Robberies: 370
• Aggravated battery: 423
• Burglaries: 535
• Thefts: 3,401
• Motor-vehicle thefts: 583
• Shooting incidents: 86
• Total: 5,520
While these thefts might seem absurdly high, they fit within Chicago’s normal parade of aggregated robberies, thefts, larceny offenses and stolen-property incidents: 174 per day. That number across 23 days equals 4,002. So, in fact, while 3,401 thefts look excessive, they actually are 15 percent below Chicago’s typical 23-day total.
Why? This hoax unfolded in the dead of winter, partially during a polar vortex that kept temperatures below 0° Fahrenheit for 52 hours in late January and early February. Total thefts likely lagged during “Chiberia,” as perpetrators and potential victims huddled indoors and struggled to stay warm.
The 5,520 Chicagoans who suffered these acts of lawlessness are Jussie Smollett’s true victims. At a minimum, they requested the assistance of a police department needlessly strained by Smollett’s destructive imagination. Others might have waited needlessly for on-the-spot police intervention or subsequent investigative help that would have arrived sooner, absent Smollett’s manufactured crisis. At worst, cops who unwittingly were babysitting Smollett could not foil real crimes that befell law-abiding people.
These facts notwithstanding, Chicago State Attorney Kim Foxx notoriously dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26, in exchange for his 16 hours of community service at Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH, the forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and zero admission of guilt by Smollett. This shocking decision ignited a mushroom cloud of outrage and denunciations of a two-track justice system: hard time for the poor and obscure versus a hot tub for the rich and famous.
This outrage makes Chicagoans seethe.
“There are really two crimes here: the Jussie Smollett hoax, and the shameful insider treatment he was given by Kim Foxx’s office,” University of Chicago Professor Charles Lipson, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago, told me. “To compound this mess, there has been no serious, independent investigation of how and why Foxx’s office cut this deal. One judge has demanded an investigation but, so far, none has begun.
“The diversion of police resources was inexcusable, given the overwhelming needs of the city,” Lipson added. “The subversion of even-handed justice was inexcusable, as well. This stinks worse than a beached whale.”
“Those stats are certainly sobering!” said Finn Muraca, a local beverage-industry executive. “The number of crimes that happened in such a dense period of time, less than a month, is certainly alarming. Unfortunately, living in Chicago, you become so inundated with these somber stats that, after a while, they fail to surprise you."
Muraca added, “After this saga, I definitely believe law enforcement should avoid media frenzies as much as possible because they probably decrease their effectiveness. That being said, I think the real culprits in this ordeal were Kim Foxx and the Cook County State Attorney’s Office.”
Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
Authorities gathered breathtaking evidence of Smollett’s guilt: the Osundairo brothers’ confessions, video of them purchasing rope and ski masks (beneath which they wore whiteface, Smollett’s attorney insists), surveillance recordings of them strolling near the scene of the “hate crime,” and a $3,500 personal check made out to Abimbola Osundairo by Smollett, ostensibly for a “5 week Nutrition/Workout program” before a music-video shoot, according to the check's memo line.
Smollett dismisses all of this: “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since Day One.”
For now, Smollett has skated. Yet prosecutors consider him guilty. "I do not believe he is innocent," First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats said.
Foxx faces her own scrutiny based on her suspicious behavior in this case. Nonetheless, she still believes that Jussie Smollett is nothing more than a “washed up celeb who lied to the cops.”
Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.