Chicago, IL – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held little back in expressing their disgust and anger over Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s decision to drop the charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
Both city leaders appeared at a press conference Tuesday afternoon on Navy Pier shortly after the conclusion of police academy graduation.
Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday announced they had dropped all charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, after previously charging the actor with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hoax hate crime on himself and reporting it to police.
"After reviewing all 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 Tandra Simonton, chief communications officer of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Superintendent Johnson said he first heard about the decision when it became public on Tuesday morning. He characterized it as brokering “a deal to circumvent the judicial system.”
Chicago’s top cop said he stood behind the investigation and pointed out that Smollett’s attorneys had repeatedly said that the actor wanted his day in court.
“My job is to gather facts, evidence – I stand behind the detective’s investigation,” the superintendent said.
He said he offered no apology to the actor, but that Smollett was the one who should be apologizing for perpetrating the hoax and sullying the name of the city.
“The apology comes from the person who did that. If you want to say you’re innocent of a situation, then you take your day in court,” Superintendent Johnson said.
Then he told reporters that if somebody had accused him of such a heinous thing, he wouldn’t hide behind a brokered deal in court.
“At the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax. If he wanted to clear his name… If they want to dispute those facts, then the place to do that is court,” the superintendent reiterated.
If Superintendent Johnson looked angry when he addressed reporters, the mayor was absolutely enraged when he took the microphone.
“This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clearer,” Emanuel told reporters.
He said Smollett was still trashing the police department’s reputation despite the fact it was a grand jury that indicted him.
The mayor said this is not a case of the police department’s word against Smollett, and that the actor has taking “no sense of ownership of what he’s done” and was still claiming he was the wronged party.
“This is a person now who has been let off scot free without any sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions… you have a person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people that are minorities from violence, then to turn around and use those laws to advance your career and your financial reward – is there no decency?” Emanuel ranted.
He was furious the case had been sealed by a judge, and said the city should be able to see everything because Smollett had repeatedly said he had nothing to hide.
“From top to bottom, this is not on the level… I also want to say and emphasize and underscore what the superintendent said, at the end of the day it’s Smollett who made the false claims,” the mayor declared.
Emanuel talked about the waste of money from the investigation, but he also talked about a bigger moral cost of abusing hate crime laws set up to protect someone like Smollett.
“The ethical cost… to use those very laws and the principals and values behind the Matthew Shepherd legislation to self-promote your career is a cost that comes to all the individuals - gay men and women - who will someday come forward and now will be doubted,” the mayor said.
Emanuel said the Chicago Police Department’s investigation had been thorough and effective.
“Our officers did hard work day-in and day-out working to unwind what actually happened that night,” the mayor said angrily. “The city saw its reputation dragged through the mud.”
He said the grand jury made their decision based on only a sliver of the evidence.
“Because of the judge’s decision, none of that evidence will ever be made public,” Emanuel lamented.
“This is without a doubt a whitewash and sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power you’ll be treated one way…” the mayor said.
Emanuel said you can’t have two separate sets of rules.
He compared Smollett getting away with the hoax to the recent case of the celebrity parents who bought their kids’ way into good colleges and universities.
Emanuel told reporters that Smollett was getting special treatment.
He also brought up the hoax death threat letter Smollett claimed to have received at the television studio.
That letter is still under federal investigation but is believed to have been sent by Smollett to himself.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct on Feb. 20.
The 36-year-old actor turned himself in at the Chicago Police Department’s 1st District at 5 a.m. on Feb. 21, to face felony disorderly conduct charges for filing a false police report. He was released on bond later the same day.
Chicago police have said they believe Smollett lied when he told police he was jumped by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant in his Streeterville neighborhood in the early hours of Jan. 29.
He said the men beat him, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Smollett told police that the men threw an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck before they ran off.
His manager told police that he was on the phone with his client at the time of the attack and heard Smollett’s attackers say “This is MAGA country” while they were assaulting the actor, NBC News reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
He said the brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
“We have the check that he used to pay them,” Superintendent Johnson said.
He said police have obtained phone records that “clearly indicate” Smollett and the Osundairo brothers talked to each other quite a bit before and after the staged attack, as well as while the brothers were out of the country.
Superintendent Johnson also said that Smollett had beaten himself up before he went to the hospital.
“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attacked where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted,” the superintendent explained.
He said that he believed the actor wanted the faked attack caught on camera, but the particular camera he chose to perform in front of wasn’t pointed the right direction.
The superintendent said chasing down bogus leads “put out in the universe” by the media wasted a lot of the police’s time during the investigation.
He said detectives interviewed more than 100 people, and located 35 police surveillance cameras and 20 private-sector security cameras along the route the Smollett claimed he took the night of the attack.
“These detectives deserve all the credit in the world for carefully analyzing the leads and evidence for weeks before coming to their conclusion,” Superintendent Johnson said.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to the initial felony disorderly conduct charge for having filed a fake police report. He claimed the $3,500 check to the Osundairo brothers was for training and nutritional guidance.
Smollett had been free on a $100,000 bond prior to the dismissal, the Chicago Tribune reported.