Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood shoulder-to-shoulder with his city’s police force Tuesday afternoon, denouncing prosecutors for dropping charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett and slamming the episode as a “whitewash of justice.”
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Emanuel said they were not only furious with the outcome of Tuesday’s surprise hearing but also blindsided by the decision itself, with the officials only learning Smollett wouldn’t face charges for allegedly faking a hate crime at the same time the public found out.
“Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have – because of a person’s position – one set of rules applies to them and another set of rules apply to everyone else,” Emanuel said. “Our officers did hard work day in and day out, countless hours working to unwind what actually happened that night. The city saw its reputation dragged through the mud…It’s not just the officers’ work, but the work of the grand jury that made a decision based on only a sliver of the evidence [presented]. Because of the judge’s decision, none of that evidence will ever be made public.”
Meantime, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told reporters he still believed Smollett filed a false police report. He said prosecutors “stand behind the investigation and the facts,” adding, “this was not an exoneration.”
Emanuel also said: “[This case] sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power you’ll be treated one way and if you’re not you’ll be treated another way.”
Johnson blasted the prosecution for not consulting with cops and hinted the episode could further strain the relationship between the department and prosecutors.
“I don’t know what’s unusual for the state’s attorney but we found out about when you all did,” Johnson said. “Prosecutors have their discretion of course, we still have to work with the state’s attorneys office — We’ll have conversations after this.”
But Johnson made sure to add, unequivocally: “At the end of the day it was Smollett who committed this hoax.”
Magats later told WLS that Smollett faced accountability by doing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond payment. He called it a fair and just outcome.
Earlier Tuesday, the Cook County State Attorney’s office announced that all 16 felony counts against Smollett, 36, were dropped and the record in the case was sealed. Smollett voluntarily forfeited his $10,000 bond and Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown-Holmes, said the funds would likely go to the city of Chicago.
Brown-Holmes also admonished Chicago cops for asserting at the conclusion of their investigation that Smollett’s tale of being attacked by two Trump supporters had been a hoax. She said police needed to “investigate claims” before presuming suspects’ guilt and trying them in the press.
Johnson told press in February of the case: “I’m left hanging my head and asking, ‘Why?’ Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol…how can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city by making this false claim? Bogus police reports cause real harm.”
Smollett has maintained his innocence and previously pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts against him.
Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was walking home from a Chicago Subway sandwich shop at around 2 a.m on Jan. 29. The actor, who is black and openly gay, said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled “This is MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” — during an attack that lasted less than a minute.
Police eventually determined the masked men were brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, and the brothers were identified by cops as being the men seen on surveillance video buying the rope that was hung around Smollett’s neck during the alleged attack. Johnson told the press at the time that the Osundairo brothers were cooperating with authorities and the investigation was pivoting from a hate crime investigation into a case of false reporting.
Johnson later said on “Good Morning America” that the police department had evidence that hadn’t yet been made public that Smollett staged the attack. Johnson told anchor Robin Roberts that he worked “very closely” with the Osundairos’ attorney to investigate the matter and that Smollett was initially treated as a victim – not a suspect — in the case, which quickly gained sustained national attention.
“It’s not the Chicago police saying [the attack was staged],” Johnson said at the time. “It’s the evidence, the facts and the witnesses that are saying it.”
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who recused herself from Smollett’s case, previously asked Johnson to let the FBI investigate Smollett’s alleged attack after the former chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama reportedly contacted Foxx to inform her that Smollett’s family had concerns about the probe.
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham then alleged that Foxx had illegally interfered with the investigation into Smollett’s alleged crime. Graham reportedly wrote to the Justice Department to investigate whether Foxx herself broke any laws related to the probe.
Smollett’s attorneys previously blasted the Chicago P.D.’s conduct, telling Fox News they’ve “witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
Fox News’ Mike Arroyo, Tyler McCarthy and Sasha Savitsky contributed to this report.