Friday Footnote: Jussie Smollett, Part 2
This year’s continuing live drama from Chicago, Illinois, USA, that concerns and involves the noted Black and same gender loving actor, Justin “Jussie” Smollett, and the Chicago Police Department, has undergone even more development and publicity since my last Friday Footnote posting two weeks ago. To reference the two previous Friday Footnote posts on Jussie Smollett, please click onto Hate and Shame and Friday Footnote: Jussie Smollett. The initial posting carries information regarding the attack on the actor. The second posting contains background material on Jussie Smollett and the current charges.
The day before the second posting regarding Jussie Smollett was posted here on ReNude Pride, (Friday, March 8) the actor (pictured above, shirtless) was formally charged by a grand jury in Chicago, Illinois, on 16 felony accounts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted both racial and homophobic slurs. The actor, who has a starring role in the TV series, Empire, had claimed that he was attacked and beaten because of the character that he portrayed – Jamal Lyon – was also gay and Black.
The Cook County, Illinois, USA, grand jury indictment, dated Thursday, March 7, 2019, included details of the disorderly conduct charge against Smollett. It elaborates on the allegation that he falsely reported that he was attacked and beaten on January 28, 2019, by two masked men shouted both racial and homophobic epithets at the Black and openly gay actor, threw an unidentified liquid chemical (later determined as bleach) on him and looped a rope tied into a noose around his neck.
The indictment – eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight for what he later told a detective investigating the incident – comes a little over three weeks after prosecutors announced a sole felony count of the same charge.
The Chicago Police Department initially investigated the assault as a possible hate crime but later said that Smollett staged the attack and recruited two brothers to carry it out because he was with his pay on the Empire TV show.
Indictments like the ones revealed above are common in criminal cases. “It was widely expected.” said Mark Geragos, one of the attorneys for Jussie Smollett. “The way this process operates is they have to do a probable cause proceeding. I never thought they would do a preliminary hearing,” he added.
Smollett, who was released on bail the day after he was charged on the felony on February 20, was scheduled to appear in court last week. He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
While it was not immediately clear why the grand jury indicted the actor on 16 counts, it divides what prosecutors and police claim the actor told the officer who responded to the call from what he reported to the detective.
The second eight counts of the indictment are more explosive than the first eight because they include two things that propelled the incident into an international sensation. The first is that by the time that Jussie talked to the detective, he reported that he could see the eye holes of one of the attacker’s masks and that he was white. The two brothers who allegedly participated in the attack are both black.
“He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who is also black, told reporters the day that Smollett was charged with the felony. Johnson reported that the actor paid the two brothers $3,500. to carry out the staged attack.
The second eight counts also include the allegation that was reported to the detective that the attackers placed a rope around the actor’s neck – a detail that both the police superintendent and the judge who set Jussie’s bond said was particularly offensive as it was a symbol of the racially offensive history of black lynchings in the USA.
The grand jury indictments say that Smollett knew at the time he gave his account to the detective that he had “…no reasonable ground that such an offense had been committed.” Immediately following Jussie Smollett’s arrest, the producers of the Empire TV series announced that his character would be removed from the season’s final two episodes.
In his recent court appearance on Thursday, March 14, 2019, Jussie’s attorney, Tina Glandian, entered his plea of “not guilty” on all the charges accusing of lying to the Chicago Police Department. At that time, Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to both oversee the case and to preside over the trial. His next court hearing is scheduled for April 17, 2019.