United States President Donald Trump has again weighed in on the case of Jussie Smollett, tweeting that the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI would look into it.
This is just the latest development in a case that has confused outside observers but where prosecutors maintain they acted appropriately despite a backlash from Chicago police and the Mayor of that city over their handling of it.
Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against the actor who was accused of staging a homophobic, hate crime attack on himself in late January.
Federal authorities had already been investigating elements of the case – in particular a threatening letter containing a death threat that Smollett received at work before the alleged staged attack. President Trump’s tweet calls the decision to drop charges outrageous and an embarrassment to the nation but prosecutors maintain they acted appropriately.
The Cook County State Attorney’s Office has defended their decision through Prosecutor Joe Magats.
“his is a disposition in a felony case that is available in cases, felony cases of this level. It’s available to all defendants. It’s not something out of privilege. It’s not something out of clout. It’s not something out of any nefarious purpose than anybody is ascribing to it.”
A reporter posed a question: Are you saying that he is a victim of a hate crime?”
“He is not a victim of a crime.”
Smollett was arrested in February for allegedly filing a false police report and while he was indicted by a grand jury, prosecutors shocked the world by dropping all 16-felony charges against him with the consent of a judge, infuriating Chicago police who believed they had an airtight case against him.
Police Chief Eddie Johnson, “My job as a police officer is to investigate an incident, gather evidence, gather the facts and present them to the state’s attorney. That’s what we did. I stand behind the detectives’ investigation.”
The Mayor of the city Rahm Emanuel has not minced words in expressing his view that this was a miscarriage of justice.
“He says that in fact that he is the wronged in this case. This is an unbelievable, not just whitewash of justice, this is a person who’s been let off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions, from top to bottom, not only just disparaging the name of the city. But then, I cannot stress, that in a time when you have people bringing a moral equivalency in Virginia between bigots and those fighting bigotry, then you have a person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities from violence, to then turn around and use those laws to advance your career and your financial reward. Is there no decency in this man?”
Cook County Prosecutors disagree as Joe Magats explains, “I understand what they go through. I appreciate their work. I respect that they do great phenomenal work. This was the right disposition in this case.’
Federal authorities, including the FBI have yet to comment on their investigation so it remains unclear exactly what they can do – if anything – regarding the prosecutorial decision not to proceed with the case.
But they do have jurisdiction over offenses committed by mail or through the U.S. Postal Service so the letter, which included a white substance sent to Smollett before the so-called staged attack, remains an issue yet unresolved not just for investigators but for the actor himself.