The Jussie Smollet saga just took another bizarre turn. Smollett was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report claiming two men attacked him, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. Today, the State Attorney’s office announced it was dropping the charges, expunging Smollett’s record, and sealing the records of the case. In return, Smollett has agreed to perform community service and has forfeited his $10,000 in bail.
Assistant State Attorney Joseph Magats, appointed by State Attorney Kim Foxx, who recused herself, announced the decision. According to Magats, the decision to drop the charges was a combination of a cost/benefit analysis and the fact that Jussie Smollett wasn’t deemed a public threat.
More from the asst state's attorney: "Here's the thing — we work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime. Public safety is our number one priority. I don't see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety."
— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman) March 26, 2019
But because we live in an ever-shifting hellscape of never-ending culture wars, Republican media “personalities” who had invested so much rage in the saga were freshly pissed.
Here's Fox News' Greg Gutfeld on February 20 saying he wanted Jussie Smollett sentenced to a *minimum* of 20 years.
Today, charges were dropped against Smollett. pic.twitter.com/nU5k84qYY0
— jordan (@JordanUhl) March 26, 2019
far right sycophants melt down over Jussie Smollett, claim Chicago PD and Cook County are part of a liberal conspiracy pic.twitter.com/LJ8wi5y5sg
— Nathan Bernard (@nathanTbernard) March 26, 2019
Some blamed Obama:
This is Obama Country. https://t.co/xq7MYNbT3G
— Chadwick Moore (@Chadwick_Moore) March 26, 2019
Some used the news to attack the very idea of white privilege:
Can someone explain to me how white privilege resulted in a black gay man blatantly fabricating a hate crime and facing no punishment for it whatsoever?
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) March 26, 2019
You can always count on Ann for the most unnecessary take pic.twitter.com/HWwvno0OuP
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) March 26, 2019
This tweet stinks but if you read it in the law and order narrator voice it’s kinda funny https://t.co/h8i7Dqzs19
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) March 26, 2019
And some used it to advance another anti-Semitic Soros conspiracy theory:
— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) March 26, 2019
The twist had conservatives—who seem to have had their faith in the FBI newly restored—calling for investigations into the whole affair:
Time for the FBI to investigate Chicago. Again.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) March 26, 2019
The key to outrages like Jussie Smollett’s dropped charges is to ESCALATE. The feds should now go after Jussie and also State Attorney Kim Foxx for political corruption. What a satisfactory outcome it would be to see them both behind bars @realDonaldTrump
— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) March 26, 2019
But most people used the news to advance Trump’s lie that Democrats are somehow treated differently by the justice system:
So I guess if you're a famous Democrat in Chicago, this is what "justice" looks like? Not corrupt at all. 🙄 https://t.co/LsF1KCxPZM
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) March 26, 2019
Justice is only blind to Democrats and Hollywood elites.
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) March 26, 2019
Never mind the fact that Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel condemned the decision, calling it a “whitewash of justice.”
Rahm Emanuel on Smollett dropped charges: "This is a whitewash of justice."
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 26, 2019
And yes, there were comparisons to Hillary Clinton, who many elected GOP officials are still demanding be investigated:
– Believe you are above the law
– Commit idiotic crime in full public view
– Deny that you ever committed that crime
– Media runs cover
– Overwhelming evidence proves that you are guilty
– Demand special treatment
– Receive special treatment from Liberal prosecutors
– Walk free pic.twitter.com/IToKsCwBpM
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) March 26, 2019
But there’s another glaring comparison that’s more apt and definitely more topical—Donald Trump claiming Mueller’s report cleared him of collusion and obstruction of justice based on a brief summary by his own Attorney General:
bunch of folks doing a 180 on whether "no charges" means "innocent" now that it's Jussie Smollett instead of Donald Trump
— i bless the rains down in Castamere (@Chinchillazllla) March 26, 2019
Wait so does Don Jr think not being charged with crimes is the same as an exoneration, or no? pic.twitter.com/QNS8NxlQhm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 26, 2019
Pretty predictable, but still amusing that the same people who want ANSWERS NOW about this Jussie Smollett weirdness are also adamant that people need to STOP ASKING QUESTIONS about the Barr summary.
— Schooley (@Rschooley) March 26, 2019
Are some of y’all really mad that Jussie Smollett’s charged got dropped? Or are y’all actually mad because a gay black man is being treated like a rich white person and you simply can’t deal?
— Dewayne “Not Dwayne” Perkins (@DewaynePerkins) March 26, 2019
It’s tough to know what to make of this news. On the one hand, Smollett certainly seems guilty. On the other hand, it’s tough to see how rolling the dice on a trial is the best use of public resources. Smollett was (allegedly!) a first-time offender and judges tend to go easier on sentencing in those cases, so a prison term may have been unlikely. Smollett also could have been acquitted completely.
During the 2008 election, a John McCain volunteer manufactured a similar hate crime, claiming Obama supporters had carved a (backward) B into her face. The woman (also a first-time offender) pleaded guilty to filing a false police report, served a few days in jail, and was released on probation. Because Democrats are not unhinged rage-baiters, no one made a fuss about her light treatment.
The justice system is not currently tilted against members of either party, but it’s pretty clear from the right-wing reaction that several prominent Republicans—including the president—want that to change.