March 28, 2019

Jussie Smollett

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“Chicago prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges accusing ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett of staging a phony hate crime… The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said it viewed the outcome as appropriate… First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told the Chicago Sun-Times that the decision to drop the case did not mean Smollett is innocent of the charges, or that he was a victim.” Reuters

On Wednesday, the Chicago Police Department released its file on the case. ABC 7 Chicago

Many on both sides are highly critical of the prosecutor:

It’s an indefensible decision, a deal hashed out in secret, with — this is outrageous — Smollett not even required to take ownership of his apparent hoax. Not even required to apologize for allegedly exploiting hate crime laws. And not even required to reimburse Chicago taxpayers for the enormous cost of this investigation… Unless there’s yet one more big revelation in this case that makes the prosecutors’ decision sensible, it will further erode citizens’ trust in law enforcement.”
Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune

“Whatever Mr. Magats may pretend about this being no exoneration, Mr. Smollett and his attorneys are claiming exactly that. Mr. Smollett asserted as he left the courthouse that he’s been ‘truthful and consistent’ from the start, and he’s still claiming he was attacked by two people he was unable to identify. Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Johnson are right.This deal stinks, and the city of Chicago deserves an apology.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left generally believes this is a strong start to trying to address the student loan debt problem, while some are critical of the plan's scale.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference in which he stated, "This is an unbelievable…  whitewash of justice, this is a person now who got off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions, from top to bottom, not only besmirching the name of the city... but you have a person using hate crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities from violence, to turn around and use those laws to advance your career? Is there no decency in this man?"
RealClearPolitics

The explanation was as forced as it was false. First, Cook County presumably has not decided to confine prosecutions to violent crimes, or everything from blackmail to bank fraud to tax evasion would be effectively immunized…

“This was not just any nonviolent offense. Smollett sent a city into crisis and caused the Chicago Police Department to direct huge resources into the search for racist, homophobic Trump supporters terrorizing innocent citizens. Magats said that the office did not want to use limited resources to go after nonviolent crime, but it already spent those resources in uncovering the hoax and securing 16 charges. All that remained was what looked like a perfunctory trial.”
Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“I started caring about the Smollett story because of the reaction to the story, because we've come to view the justice system as just another tool to push political agendasinstead of the best way to determine truth and ensure justice… [For example] many liberals howled when Paul Manafort was given ‘only’ four years in prison -- even though liberals have been fighting against mass incarceration and unduly long and harsh prison sentences…

“Smollett shouldn't be top of mind, no matter whether he's telling the truth or really staged a phony attack to boost his chances of getting a raise. But he is. That doesn't mean he should be scapegoated for our inability to focus on things far more important. That's our fault, not his.”
Issac Bailey, CNN

Some argue that “few enraged by Smollett’s case seem to have considered what should be intuitive — that Tuesday’s decision was a perfectly reasonable response to a system that locks up far too many people while offering inadequate ways to address the most serious crimes… To the extent that incarceration is ever appropriate in its current American manifestation, it should be used sparingly to protect people from those who would harm them. Smollett clearly does not qualify.”
Zak Cheney-Rice, New York Magazine

Minority View: “The sweeping Mueller investigation ended with zero indictments of zero Americans for conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election. Both Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner – the key participants in the Trump Tower meeting – testified for hours and hours yet were never charged for perjury, lying or obstruction, even though Mueller proved how easily he would indict anyone who lied as part of the investigation…

“As Mueller himself concluded, a reasonable debate can be conducted on whether Trump tried to obstruct his investigation with corrupt intent. But even on the case of obstruction, the central point looms large over all of it: there was no underlying crime established for Trump to cover-up.”
Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

From the Right

From the Right

Smollett isn't getting off because he is innocent. He is not innocent. He is something better than innocent. He is famous. The charges against him were dropped because someone in power called someone else in power and said, ‘Let him go.’ None of this had anything to do with justice. It's the opposite of justice.”
Tucker Carlson, Fox News

“Hate crimes happen every day. Sometimes to gay black men. Sometimes to Muslims. Sometimes to Jews. Hoaxes make real victims seem less believable, and they also unnecessarily exacerbate racial and political tension… In a country obsessed with the hierarchy of oppression, it’s rare to see anyone call a black gay man privileged. But what else do you call a person who fakes a hate crime, gets off scot-free, and doesn’t even offer so much as an apology?”
Daniella Greenbaum Davis, Spectator USA

“It ought to be blindingly obvious to Chicago prosecutors that if a hate-crime hoaxer is allowed to get away with it, this constitutes an engraved invitation to others who might be inclined to paint themselves as victims and bask in the inevitable national-cynosure status while precious police resources get tied up in one of the most dangerous cities in America on the investigation of nonexistent crimes… Some nominal fine and community service, unaccompanied by a guilty plea, fall far short of the degree of punishment that is necessary both to impress upon Smollett the gravity of what he has done and to deter future Smolletts from following his lead.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

Some argue that “Smollett’s celebrity and political connections may have been factors in the decisions made by Cook County prosecutors throughout the course of this case, including State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s decision to recuse herself. But the unfortunate truth is that such leniency isn’t rare in Chicago. Hardened criminals are constantly given sweet deals

“Last December, Marcus Moore was released from prison after serving just five months of a sentence for an assault, captured on camera, that led to the death of Marques Gaines. Moore, according to the Chicago Tribune, was ‘a five-time felon with 33 arrests by Chicago police.’... last summer, police charged two men with attempted murder after they live-streamed on Facebook the vicious beating of a 42-year-old man. The two were both on parole and had more than 20 prior arrests between them… Chicago violence is frequently committed by repeat offenders—many released with pending cases, paroled after serving only a portion of their sentences, or given probation despite troubling criminal histories.”
Rafael Mangual, City Journal

“Colleges hike their tuition ­every year because they can. The feds have been willing to increase loan amounts to match whatever colleges charge. The result? Every dollar lent ­inflates tuition by another 60 cents, according to Federal Reserve ­research. In this heartless scheme, students are mules, carrying dollars from Washington to campuses nationwide. Never mind if they ever graduate or land jobs to pay back their loans…

“It would be fairer to require colleges to ­refund a portion of the loan money to Uncle Sam when a student doesn’t make it to graduation. Colleges need to have skin in the game, so they’ll try harder to get students through the course of study and into the working world.”
Betsy McCaughey, New York Post

A libertarian's take

“As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to put some reasonable limitations on how the United States conducted its post-9/11 wars across the Middle East… But on Tuesday night, Trump unambiguously backed Forever War. He vetoed a congressional resolution that would have ended American military involvement in the Yemeni civil war—a conflict that has killed an estimated 50,000 people (scores more have died in a famine triggered by the conflict) without having any significant bearing on U.S. national security.”
Eric Boehm, Reason

On the bright side...

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