By John Kass
Even a bad actor like Jussie Smollett sure knows a juicy new role when he sees one.
And so, when brave Cook County Judge James Linn shocked the former “Empire” star and Obama White House entertainer by sentencing him to 150 days in jail–for orchestrating that fake anti-black anti-gay hate crime, blaming Trump supporters, and lying about it for hours under oath–Smollett reached for the one thing he knows.
He reached for drama.
And then more drama. In the courtroom on Thursday evening, he chewed the scenery with gusto, adding a raised fist like some cartoon ‘60s revolutionary, jumping seamlessly into his new role:
Jussie Smollett—innocent social justice warrior martyred and wronged by “the man.”
The silly entertainer can’t deviate from his script. He’ll never apologize or ask forgiveness for lies that a jury could see through. He’ll never admit that he played with racial fire, fanned early on by an adoring/witless corporate legacy media simply because his concocted story fit neatly into their already approved political narrative.
He was a black man, and his assailants, in his fantasy that Smollett and media shared, were wearing those MAGA caps, shouting the N-word, holding a noose.
But it wasn’t true.
He’ll never admit that his lies could have sparked violence, that Chicagoans could have been hurt or killed. He can’t admit publicly to perjury on the witness stand before judge and jury in that trial where he was convicted on five of six counts.
So, he plays the wronged man, the victim once again. Perhaps he’ll write and publish his “Letter from Cook County Jail” and star in it himself.
“I would like to say to your honor that I am not suicidal!” the silly entertainer raged as they took him away on Thursday evening. “I am not suicidal. I am not suicidal! I AM INNOCENT AND I AM NOT SUICIDAL!
“If I’m innocent that means I stuck my fist in the fears of black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fear of the LGBT community.”
“If anything happens to me when I go in there (jail) I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that. I AM NOT SUICIDAL!”
OK, Jussie, you’re not suicidal. You’re not Jeffrey Epstein, either. Sleep well. In jail.
His original hate crime hoax story had him fighting off brawny MAGA supporters (who turned out to be Nigerian bodybuilders he paid off with a check). He fought them heroically he said, a Subway tuna sandwich in one hand and a cell phone in the other, at 2 a.m. during the freezing polar vortex. And he kept his wits so that he adjusted that prop noose on his neck. Jussie must be a certified badass.
And he thought that Chicago cops and a jury would believe him?
Sleep well Jussie.
Perhaps on visiting day, I’ll bring you a harmonica so you might play mournful tunes. And your pal and champion, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx might play the tambourine, when she’s not writing ridiculous self-serving op-eds in the Sun Times making both of you out to be the victims of “mob justice.”
Smollett and Foxx aren’t victims of “mob justice.” They’re clumsy players who were exposed. But only one has been punished appropriately.
Judge Linn said Smollett lied continually and wanted a “national pity party” for himself because he wasn’t getting enough attention from producers of the “Empire” TV show.
And what of Kim Foxx?
She had a dream. In it, she became a U.S. Senator and got to hang out with her BFF Kamala Harris in Washington.
Foxx played her games, communicating behind-the-scenes about Smollett with another Smollett fan, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff Tina Tchen and others. Then Foxx dropped all grand jury counts against Smollett, and so she bathed him criminally clean in the waters of the Chicago Way, leading the people of Chicago and Cook County to conclude something: That the elected prosecutor, who has campaigned in two elections by playing the race card, was dirty, ruining whatever credibility she had left.
What will happen now?
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart will assign extra jailers to watch Smollett in protective custody away from the general jail population. Guards will surround him 24/7. Smollett has already put a noose around his neck to fake that last racial-anti-gay fake hate crime of his. But no one wants him to get hurt or hurt himself in there, least of all Tom Dart.
Dart has an eye for publicity, and loves stories about the jail that involve his convict pizza parties or tomato gardening for inmates. These are much happier than other stories, of repeat violent offenders—including those charged with murder—recreating out on the streets of Chicago wearing electronic home monitoring ankle bracelets, glaring at witnesses, and shooting people.
What if Smollett wants to put on a “Jailhouse Rock” show with fellow convicts, with Jussie singing and dancing as he did for an excited Michelle Obama and Tchen at the White House back in the day, could Dart really say no? But the publicity would be worse if Jussie makes a noose out of napkins.
So, they’ll watch him. Of the 150 days, expect him to do half, about 75 days. And then he’s onto probation, community service at Operation PUSH, media interviews and image rehabilitation, hugs from Hollywood.
I’d hoped that Smollett would end up in a jail jump suit, with a crew, picking up trash along the expressways with a bag and a sharp stick. But I didn’t believe he’d get any jail time. And now he’s in jail.
Who are the winners and losers in the saga of Jussie Smollett?
Smollett of course is a loser, as are editors and station managers who fall for the Jussie-as-victim storyline. But Chicago is Chicago, and race cards are played easily and without much risk because local media is queasy about pointing out who plays the race card and why. There will be some who’ll try to rebuild his image and make him a hero.
Judge Linn didn’t make him a hero. Linn deserves thanks of the people of Cook County. Given the way the race card is played here, given that Foxx Sun Times op-ed where Foxx argues that criminal justice has been hijacked, it would have been easier for him to give Smollett community service and let him walk. But the judge didn’t do that.
“You never wanted this case solved,” Linn told Smollett. “Turns out you’re not a victim of a racial hate crime, you’re not a victim of a homophobic hate crime. You’re just a charlatan.”
Linn focused on the noose, the prop that Smollett put around his neck and wore like a flouncy scarf.
“They never did get the noose around your neck,” said Linn. “So, what do you do? You put it around your own neck. I repeat. You put the noose around your own neck.”
Another who deserves thanks is retired Judge Sheila O’Brien. After Foxx favored Smollett by dropping the grand jury charges, many could smell a foul odor coming from 26th and Cal. But O’Brien didn’t just smell it and complain. She did something about it.
She appeared in Judge Michael Toomin’s court, and publicly petitioned for a special prosecutor to investigate. That led to new charges being filed against Smollett, and he was convicted.
Toomin, a longtime judge, also deserves a thumb’s up here. By appointing a special prosecutor, Toomin incurred the wrath of Foxx and her political patron, Boss Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County board, and chair of the Cook County Democratic Party.
In revenge, Preckwinkle tried to take Toomin out in the last election. But Boss Toni failed. Boss Toni got some media heat, but not nearly enough. She doesn’t get the media attention she deserves. Boss
Toni controls the county prosecutor (Foxx) who is her political pet and former aide. She controls the budgets for the county jail and budgets for the county courts, yet with the news full of voter anxiety about the increase in violent crime, an amazing thing happens: Boss Toni flies under the media radar, protected from legitimate inquiry.
And as of Thursday, the Republicans had no candidate to run against her for county board president.
And Foxx? After all that she did in the Smollett case, communicating with Smollett’s supporters of influence, misleading the public that she had recused herself from the case even though she did not recuse herself, Kim Foxx keeps three things:
She keeps her law license. She keeps her job as state’s attorney of Cook County. And she keeps Boss Toni’s protection and with it, the implied threat of retribution against any judge who stands up to her.
Those celebrating about Smollett’s sentencing and thinking it changes things in Cook County are like others who celebrate the recent federal indictment of former Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan.
Smollett has been proven by a jury to be a liar. And now he’s in jail.
But Boss Toni controls the jail, the judges and the prosecutor’s office. And Kim Foxx has her job and her law license.
The only thing that changes is the role played by Smollett.
He’s a victim again. A martyr for the cause.
(Copyright 2022 John Kass)