Editorial: Jussie Smollet and justice
Filing a false police report in Illinois is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison and fines of up to $25,000, according to Illinois statutes.
If Empire actor Jussie Smollet did actually make a false police report about allegedly being attacked last month, justice demands that he be prosecuted.
As Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass points out in a superb column, Smollett's allegation diverted huge resources, including two dozen detectives, that could have been used to, say, investigate who shot a 1-year-old child in the head.
But who should give a damn about an infant getting shot when political correctness, fueled by bigoted politicians and irresponsible media, set off national finger-pointing and self-righteous scolding by left-wing and LGBT radicals?
Who among Democrats who hold just about all the relevant elective and law-enforcement offices in Chicago, Cook County and Illinois will go after Smollett to "the full extent of the law?"
There's talk of a grand jury inquiry into Smollett's claims that racist and homophobic supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the TV star. But considering the secrecy of grand juries and how easily they can be manipulated, can we count on them doing their job when it comes to nailing someone who is a national idol who got so much national sympathy because its the left's narrative that anyone on the other side is automatically evil?
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx is the leading prosecutor in Cook County and should lead the investigation. But she has officially recused herself from the case, and failed to give a reason other than the vague "familiarity with potential witnesses in the case." That leaves us to supply a reason: She's afraid. What will happen to her political career if the left targets her for indicting or even convicting Smollett? She has appointed Joseph Magats, a career assistant state's attorney to handle the case who'll take the heat.
So, who else? Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is the state' chief law enforcement officer. But he's too busy feathering his political nest by challenging the sentence of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of a black teenager.
Illinois' new Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Rahm Emanuel could use their bully pulpits to demand justice. Or some off the 14 Chicago mayoral candidates could make it an issue. Other public officials could chime in.
I won't hold my breath.
In the unlikely event that Smollett is indicted and convicted there's always this: Probation. It's entirely up to the judge who can consider such things as previous criminal history. The maximum length of probation is up to 30 months.
Or more likely, a plea deal that will save everyone embarrassment.
So, unless I'm overlooking another, more serious charge that can be brought against Smollett, punishment for discrediting his own cause, tarring Chicago's reputation and diverting scarce and costly Chicago police resources from more important cases, the maximum he can receive is a slap on the wrist.
Author Dennis Byrne is a long-time political writer, former Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times op-ed columnist. You can reach firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his site www.dennisbyrne.net