Unless you’re an avid viewer of the Empire show, you may not have even heard of Jussie Smollett before he falsely claimed earlier this year that he had received a threatening letter – and that he had been assaulted by two strangers because he’s both black and gay.
As it turns out, he’s actually been around the entertainment world for quite some time, having started out as a child actor at the age of 5 in 1987.
His first big film role was as Terry Hall in The Mighty Ducks in 1992 – which was followed by a role as Adam in Rob Reiner’s North in 1994.
He also appeared as Ricks in Ridley Scott’s science fiction film Alien: Covenant – and as Langston Hughes in Marshall – both of which premiered in 2017.
He and his five siblings – Jake, Jocqui, Jojo, Jurnee and Jazz – all appeared in the ABC sitcom On Our Own, which only lasted one season (1994-1995).
Following the cancellation of the ABC series, Smollett bounced around the entertainment world for the next two decades.
His big break came in 2014 when he was signed to play Jamal Lyon in the Empire series. At the time, his role as a black gay man was hailed as “groundbreaking” – and he was a frequent guest on many talk shows.
In fact, it was during an appearance on Ellen in 2015 that he publicly acknowledged being gay.
Later, in a 2016 interview with Out magazine, he clarified that although he “would label himself a gay man”, he might also become involved romantically with women.
Smollett has also released several single records – and one album – as an R&B singer. His last recording was in 2018.
Earlier Legal Hassle
Prior to the incidents earlier this year, Smollett’s only known encounter with law enforcement was the result of a DUI stop in Los Angels in 2007.
At the time he was stopped, he gave police his brother’s name – and also signed the violation with that name.
He eventually pleaded “No Contest” to driving with a blood-alcohol level over the limit and to not having a valid driver’s license. He was ordered to pay a fine – and placed on 2-years of probation.
The Fake Threatening Letter & Fake Attack
So, what causes a guy who had finally started to make some real money and a name for himself to blow it all by sending himself a fake threatening letter – and, when that didn’t get him enough attention, falsely claiming he was attacked by two men in ski masks who shouted racial and homophonic slurs, physically beat him with their fists and feet, put a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him?
Well, according to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire – and orchestrated the fake letter and fake attack “to take advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”.
Johnson, who is also black, was clearly pissed when he held a news conference to discuss the matter.
“I’m left hanging my head and asking why,” a very emotional Johnson told reporters. “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?”
Johnson also made it clear that he thought Smollett should apologize for what he’s done – and offer to pay back the city of Chicago for the time and money it had wasted on investigating his false claims.
“As a black man, who spent his entire life living in the city of Chicago, I know the racial divide that exists here. I know how hard it’s been for our city and our nation to come together,” Johnson said. He went on to note that “absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared….admitting what he did and then be man enough to offer what he should offer up in terms of all the resources that were put into this.”
Chicago police investigators have stated that they have clear and convincing evidence that both the threatening letter and the attack were fake.
That evidence includes, but is not limited to, the following
– A copy of the check that Smollett used to pay Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, the two brothers who staged the fake attack;
– A receipt from the store where they bought the rope that was used to make the noose;
– Phone records to show the extensive communications between Smollett and the Osundairo brothers – including calls an hour before and an hour after the attack; and
– Grand jury testimony from both brothers.
So, Why Won’t Smollett Just Admit What He Did?
Faced with all that evidence, the vast majority of people would simply admit what they did, apologize for being an asshole, and ask for forgiveness.
But not Jussie Smollett.
Nope, not only has he refused to do any of those things, he’s also criticized the Chicago Police for taking so long to investigate his false claims and find the Osundairo brothers.
In one of the latest filings in the civil case that the City has filed against him to get reimbursed for the $130,000 it spent on the case, Smollett’s attorney claims that even if Jussie did file a false report, he had no way of knowing the police would undertake an investigation – and certainly no way of knowing they’d spend 2,000 hours doing so.
“The mere fact somebody filed a police report doesn’t presume an investigation will be done and certainly not to the extent of what the city is claiming”, Smollett’s attorney wrote. “Jussie Smollett had no control over that”, he added.
So What’s a Fair Punishment for Jussie Smollett?
I personally believe that we incarcerate way too many people in the U.S. (Although we represent only 5% of the world’s population, we have 22% of its prisoners).
But I’m willing to make exceptions in some cases – especially when the defendant is so arrogant and disconnected from the real world.
Having the City of Chicago get a judgment against Smollett for the $130,000 – and, hopefully, its attorney fees – will simply not be justice in this case.
Especially not when you add in the fact Fox Entertainment decided to pay Smollett for the current season of Empire even though he will not appear in any episodes.
Nope… This arrogant asshole should spend at least 6-12 months in a state or federal prison – and then have to perform at least 2,000 hours of community service when he gets out.
At least that’s what I think would be fair in this case!
What say you, Frank Report readers?