In a thread on Twitter, ex-Obama adviser David Axelrod condemned “this weird turn in the (Jussie) Smollett case.”
He tweeted Tuesday afternoon: “Unless some better explanation surfaces, here’s the lesson of this weird turn in the Smollett case: You can contrive a hate crime, make it a national news, get caught and-if you are a well-connected celebrity-get off for $10K and have your record expunged and files sealed.”
In an astonishing reversal, prosecutors on Tuesday abruptly dropped all charges against Smollett, abandoning the case barely five weeks after the “Empire” actor was accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago.
Smollett’s attorneys said his record had “been wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
Axelrod, who majored in political science at the University of Chicago and now is a political consultant and analyst, added on Twitter, “No. Sorry, folks. The brief statement offered by the prosecutor didn’t dispute the basic facts in the original charge. That’s why he was compelled to sacrifice his bond. They simply said that in light of his voluntary work in the community, this was a just resolution.”
The former political writer for the Chicago Tribune continued: “Hate crimes are loathsome. Faking them is insidious and shouldn’t be excused. Despite Smollett’s denials, nothing the prosecutor said in dismissing the case supports that. If prosecutors have evidence that contradicts the indictment THEY brought, they should share it today.”
Later in the afternoon, Axelrod concluded, calling the circumstance “outrageous.”
“‘The fact that (Smollett) feels that we have exonerated him, we have not. I can’t make it any clearer than that’ So says the lead prosecutor in Smollett case. So why allow Smollett to get off for $10K and have his records expunged and case files sealed?” Axelrod tweeted. “Smollett repaid the city $10k, ostensibly as an offset for the investigation his phony charges ignited that cost the City of Chicago in the millions. It really is outrageous.”
The mayor and police chief blasted the decision and stood by the investigation that concluded Smollett staged a hoax. A visibly angry Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it “a whitewash of justice” and lashed out at Smollett, asking, “Is there no decency in this man?”
Emanuel, who is in his final weeks in office after two terms, said the city saw its reputation “dragged through the mud” by Smollett’s alleged plan to promote his career. The hoax, the mayor said, could endanger other gay people who report hate crimes.
“Now this casts a shadow of whether they’re telling the truth, and he did this all in the name of self-promotion,” he said.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stood by the department’s investigation and said Chicago is “is still owed an apology.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted the decision to dismiss the case. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors’ office offered no detailed explanation. The city will keep the $10,000 in bail money that Smollett paid to get out of jail after his arrest.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’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 to this case,” said the statement from spokeswoman Tandra Simonton.
Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility.
Outside court, neither Smollett nor his legal team appeared to concede anything about his original report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.