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The Jussie Smollett debacle was a slap in the face to Chicagoans

by Tanesha Peeples
The Jussie Smollett debacle was a slap in the face of Chicagoans
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As a Chicagoan, I am highly disappointed in the attention around and handling of the Jussie Smollett case.

In January of 2019, Jussie Smollett made a 911 call from his Chicago apartment alleging that he’d been attacked by two people. He claimed they initially provoked his attention by yelling racial and homophobic slurs while leaving a Subway restaurant at 2 a.m.

Police found Smollett in his apartment with a noose around his neck and bodily injuries from the attack. 

Further into the investigation, it was found that Smollett hired two associates, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to help him carry out the hoax. As a result, Jussie was arrested and indicted for staging the attack and lying to the police.

The case dragged on for three years and ultimately ended with a jury finding him guilty of five counts of felony, disorderly conduct.

Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced the former “Empire” actor to 150 days in the Cook County jail, $120,106 in restitution to be paid to the city and a $50,000 fine.

Where’s the attention on violent crimes?

Smollett left the courtroom maintaining his innocence by saying, “If I did this and it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fingers of the LGBTQ community…I am innocent”. He also repeated multiple times that he was not suicidal.

Personally, I can’t wrap my head around why or if Jussie actually pulled this stunt. But if he did do it, I absolutely agree with him being held accountable for his crimes–especially as someone who’s Black, in the LGBTQ+ community and traumatized by hate crimes.

But here’s why I’m disappointed with how things went down.

First, there’s this pervasive culture in Chicago where high publicity crimes get all the resources and attention while those that are “low profile” but happen everyday typically remain unsolved.

Jussie staging a hate crime in today’s racially charged atmosphere is indeed a serious matter. But, it’s not as serious as the murders, carjackings and other crimes we’re seeing on the daily basis.

Jussie Smollett’s case received more attention than missing Black women

For example, 2021 closed as our deadliest year in a quarter with a murder clearance rate of under 50%. Also in that year, we saw a 44% increase in carjackings, a lot of them violent and deadly. Finally, at least 25,000 women are trafficked through Chicago every year.

And it’s not lost on me that other things factor into cases not being solved. Politics, resources stretched thin and no snitching clauses that allow criminals to continue to run the streets are a few reasons why other cases fall through the cracks. But when we focus our energy on–compared to these other crimes–insignificant matters, we do a disservice to the victims and families awaiting justice.

So yeah, we caught Jussie Smollett up in his hoax, but 26 year old postal worker Kierra Coles has been missing for four years. As Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, “Smollett was indicted, tried and convicted by a kangaroo prosecution in a matter of months. Meanwhile, the families of more than 50 Black women murdered in Chicago over the last 20 years await justice.”

Police brutality costs taxpayers more than Jussie Smollett’s hoax

Moreover, there was all of this emphasis on all the trouble Jussie caused the city. Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown said, “The city is a victim of Mr. Smollett’s crime”. Judge Linn – who berated Smollett excessively and unnecessarily for over 30 minutes during the sentencing – echoed the same sentiment. A point was also made to highlight the $130,000 spent in police overtime on the case that, I’m assuming, Jussie Smollett will pay back in restitution. 

But what we don’t talk about is how over a half billion of our taxpayer dollars are being spent on payouts for police misconduct. Aren’t we victims of the city? Shouldn’t we be paid restitution?

Finally and simply, the whole thing was just messy and embarrassed the city. It exposed lack of cohesion between our law and justice departments and honestly, appeared to be used as a moment for those involved to shine. 

All perpetrators of crime should be held accountable for the harm they cause, including famous people like Jussie Smollett. Going forward, I just hope Chicago practices what it’s presenting in being tough on crime and efficient in solving crimes because those of us that are everyday victims would greatly appreciate it.

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