At a time when hate crimes are in the spotlight, faked hate crimes have a devastating effect on legitimate cases. Fake victims undermine the plight of legitimate victims.
The fury of the public when Jussie Smollett was arrested for staging a hate crime has been replaced with anger that all the charges were dropped. Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx is now facing demands for her resignation from the city’s Fraternal Organization of Police while Smollett faces civil litigation to reimburse the city for the cost of their investigation into what has been deemed a hoax.
At the core of the current controversy is the issue of equality.
If Smollett wasn’t a public figure and actor would he have had the charges dismissed? Kim Foxx, while defending herself against accusations of bias, had previously recused herself from the case but failed to appoint a special prosecutor to replace herself. The law demands that all people be treated equally under the law yet, in this case, Smollett seems to have avoided that kind of equality.
If he is innocent then he should prove it in court.
The disproportionate number of black men in US prisons is concerning. There are legitimate issues around whether or not the justice system is railroading people of colour. Those issues don’t disappear when one person like Smollett gets a special deal. It doesn’t help Smollett and it doesn’t help advance racial equality.
Jussie Smollett deserves a fair trial, the same as anyone else, but the problem is that there won’t be a criminal trial at all. That interferes with the public gaining closure and with Smollett being able to effectively put this scandal behind him.
Racial tensions have grown over the last decade and they will not be put to rest by selectively choosing who to prosecute. If Smollett made a false police report to incite racial tensions intentionally,the best remedy is to put those tensions to rest by determining his guilt or innocence in a court of law.
Without a proper trial, the question of racial equality within the justice system lingers. Why do some people get prosecuted and others do not?
While a civil suit may leave some believing that justice was done, it doesn’t resolve the social unrest that resulted from the original accusations. Prisons are being filled with those convicted of street crimes while the elite are perceived as getting away with everything. Questions of equality are not based just on race or gender. Smollett’s case is a prime example of class inequality.
The impression left by the way this case was handled opens up a primary question regarding equality in the justice system: the rich vs the poor.
Everyone is left wondering what would have happened if Jussie Smollett wasn’t Jussie Smollett, an actor with political connections. If he’d been someone else would the charges have been withdrawn? The Chicago Fraternal Organization of Police apparently doesn’t think so.
For those who have been sent to prison, rightfully or wrongfully convicted, it is not acceptable that some people are able to avoid justice by paying a fine to skip an uncomfortable trial or deserved incarceration.
Without a proper prosecution that forces Jussie Smollett to answer these accusations, the public will continue to be left with the impression that he somehow bought his way out of responsibility for a crime. Simultaneously, it appears that Kim Foxx engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. She should resign and be held accountable.
The way it stands, the handling of Jussie Smollett’s charges will likely leave everyone more divided than we were before Mr. Smollett faked being a victim of a hate crime. Even if he loses the civil suit, or settles out of court, the public will be left with unrest.
The prevailing question is whether or not people can buy their way out of jail. If Smollett is guilty, why isn’t he being treated equally? If he’s not guilty, how is he benefitting from the state sealing documents, thereby denying him the only chance he has to clear his name?
The public perception right now is that some people are more equal than others. It’s an Orwellian reality in which some people don’t get prosecuted for reasons the prosecutor won’t disclose.