The unsettling case of Jussie Smollett first gained coverage in the early morning of January 29th. News broke that Empire television star was attacked while walking through the 300 block of East Lower North Water Street, in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago. It was reported that two masked men attacked the actor, tied a noose around his neck, and spilled an unknown liquid over him. Allegedly, the attackers were screaming homophobic and racial slurs, including “this is MAGA country” – a reference to the President Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan and the racial tension surrounding his administration.
As news of the attack spread throughout the nation, many people were disturbed and voiced their concerns on social media. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and other political figures commended Smollett’s bravery and supported his call for a thorough investigation. Unfortunately for Smollett, that’s exactly what happened. Not only did the detectives uncover the identities of his attackers, but they unveiled a hoax perpetrated by the victim himself.
Smollet’s plan was thwarted when Chicago police found security footage of Nigerian brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundario catching a cab down the street from where the attack was said to have taken place. After they were identified and brought into custody, it was revealed that the brothers were not only extras on Empire, but one was Jussie’s close friend and personal trainer. According to the brothers, Smollet approached and offered them $3,500 to carry out the choreographed attack on himself.
On February 21st, a grand jury in Cook County indicted Smollett on 16 felony charges of disorderly content for allegedly filing a false police report. Hours after surrendering himself to police, Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a press conference where he stated that Smollett created the hoax because he was unhappy with his Empire salary and “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.” Smollet has denied these allegations and is sticking to his story, pleading not guilty to all charges in court yesterday morning (Thursday, March 14th).
Despite the massive media coverage Smollett’s case has incurred, the true victims of this case are the ones who were neglected because of his alleged false report. According to USA Today, in the three weeks that Chicago PD was investigating, the city endured “at least 18 killings and dozens of shootings” where manpower could have been used. Superintendent Johnson said it best: “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention, because that’s who deserves the amount of attention we’re giving this particular incident.”
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