Empire Star Strikes Back


Photo screenshot by Alaina Haylock

After attending court, the attorney’s office dropped all of the charges against actor Jussie Smollett (Photo screenshot by Alaina Haylock).

At the beginning of this year, Jussie Smollett was attacked on January 29, 2019. Controversy surrounding the attack began to question his credibility. A more in depth look at the events can be found in the article Empire Star Has Fallen. However, in a brief overview, Smollett claimed two men insulted him with racial and homophobic slurs, physically assaulted him, and wrapped a noose around his neck. The actor filed a police report and in turn gained lots of support from fans and celebrities. As details of the case were released, speculation grew concerning the truth behind the attack. The evidence was reviewed and eventually lead to Smollett being charged with 16 counts of felony and disorderly conduct and arrested in Cook County, Chicago. For Smollett, numerous supporters are blaming the justice system, while others fault him for his actions.

Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, “It’s just despicable. How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that [noose] and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”

Following that, the Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. on February 21, 2019, also opposing Jussie Smollett, set the bond at $100,000 on charges for staging the attack, claiming two men tied a noose on his neck, called him slurs, and beat him in Chicago.

This African American Cook County Judge spoke out on the alleged attack and stated, “The most vile and despicable part of it, if it’s true, is the noose. That symbol conjures up such evil in this country’s history.”

A friend of Smollett’s paid the bond and he was released from Cook County Jail the same day his bond was set. From there he returned to the set of television show Empire as the fifth season concluded filming. The executive producers of Empire had previously claimed Smollett’s character would be written off for the remaining episodes of the season.

However, Fox announced Smollett would not be removed from the show and he was a “consummate professional on set.” The company later released a statement overlooking the situation that stated, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.” Empire’s ratings could plummet, depending on the reaction of the viewers. Later on, a greater turn of events occured.

On March 14, Smollett plead not guilty for 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct in court with lawyer Tina Glandian. Eventually, Cook County’s State Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against Smollett.

Cook County prosecutors explained their decision in a statement which stated, “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”

Castmate of Smollett’s, Taraji P. Henson, expressed her feelings about the news stating she was “happy for him.” She went on to say, “I’m not going to jump on clickbait just because someone says something derogatory about a person I know and love…I know the type of activism this young man does in his community, I know that he’s a giver – he’s not an attention-seeker.”

Despite Henson’s beliefs, not everyone shared the same opinion of the court’s ruling. President Trump even weighed in on the ruling, but he was less enthusiastic. Trump tweeted, “FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our nation!”

Overall, the whole situation has caused a racial and political drift, bringing with it the question of the reliability of both the country’s legal system and Jussie Smollett. Even after the charges are dropped, skepticism continues to plague the case. For some, Smollett’s reputation is good enough to refute the claims. Others view the evidence and discrepancy as proof of foul play.  

CNN host Van Jones spoke from a different angle that should be considered, “This is a moment [when] everybody needs to take a step back and look in the mirror. You don’t get something this big and this messy unless there are a lot of things going wrong in the culture.”