CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed anger over Cook County prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett Tuesday in a surprise court hearing.
Emanuel, speaking alongside Johnson at Navy Pier Tuesday afternoon, called the decision a “whitewash of justice.” The mayor essentially accused prosecutors of giving Smollett special treatment because of his status as a celebrity.
“Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else,” he said.
The state’s attorney’s reasoning for the decision to drop the charges wasn’t immediately clear, but Emanuel labeled it as a case of Smollett getting preferential treatment.
He drew a comparison to the recent college admissions scandal involving celebrities paying bribes to get their children admitted into elite universities.
“In another way you’re seeing this play out in universities where people pay extra to get their kids a special position in universities. Now you have a person because of their position and background who is getting treated in a way that nobody ever would get close to this type of treatment,” Emanuel said.
Johnson said he doesn’t believe justice was served, and held firm on the statement he made following Smollett’s February arrest that the “Empire” actor owes the City of Chicago an apology. The superintendent suggested that an innocent person would make their case in court.
“If you want to say you’re innocent of a situation, then you take your day in court. I would never, if someone falsely accused me, I would never hide behind a brokered deal in secrecy, period,” Johnson said.
The news that 16 felony charges of disorderly conduct had been dropped against the “Empire” actor came as a surprise to city officials. Johnson said Feb. 21, the day Smollett turned himself in on on a felony charge of disorderly conduct, that the allegedly fabricated hate crime, “Quite frankly pissed everybody off.”
Reacting to the surprise news that the charges were being dropped, Johnson questioned why an innocent man would turn away from an opportunity for a day in court.
“When I came on this job, I came on with my honor, my integrity, and my reputation—if someone accused me of doing anything that would circumvent that then I would want my day in court to clear my name,” Johnson said.
He also mentioned a judge’s prior decision to allow cameras to record future court proceedings–a decision that was welcomed by Smollett’s defense team.
“I’ve heard they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so America could know the truth, but now they chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Smollett’s alleged scheme started with a letter that was sent to the set of “Empire,” containing letters apparently cut out from magazines to create words, creating racist and homophobic threats against Smollett.
When the letter didn’t get the reaction Smollett wanted, police said he paid two brothers $3,500 by check to help him orchestrate an attack in Streeterville.
“I only hope that the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did,” he said. “I’ll continue to pray for this troubled young man who resorted to both drastic and illegal tactics to gain attention,” Johnson said last month.
Smollett’s legal troubles deepened March 8 when a grand jury returned 16 felony counts against the actor for falsely reporting a hate crime attack against him in January. He pleaded not guilty on March 14, and less than two weeks later, prosecutors dropped the charges.
“Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.,” a statement from Smollett’s attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said.
The cost for the city:
Police sources told CBS 2 in February the resources expended on the Smollett investigation were significant, although a dollar estimate wasn’t provided.
During the investigation into the alleged hate crime attack, 24 detectives were removed from regular cases. Around 1,000 hours were dedicated to the investigation, not including overtime not included.
In addition, police spent dozens of hours of examining surveillance video from 55 city pod cams and private cameras. Authorities also executed 50 search warrants and subpoenas for phone, social media and financial records.