By Jeremy Binning
Recently, Empire actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and a $145,000 fine for lying to the police about being the victim of a hate crime. He was recently released this past week pending an appeal. Many have expressed outrage over Smollett’s case as he was looked down upon for lying about the attack.
Many worried over how this could affect real victims when they report a hate crime that really did happen. Many people struggle with coming out and reporting crimes, such as harassment, largely due to institutions not believing their stories.
There have been many cases of people creating false police reports for a plethora of reasons, however that shouldn’t be the reason for excluding everyone trying to get their story out.
Jonathan Benjamin, a senior majoring in sociology, feels that Smollett sent a damaging blow to victims who have been affected by hate crimes.
“It was disappointing to hear that he lied about the attack because I was someone who was supporting hime when the news first came out,” Jonathan said. “There are people who struggle daily, some who haven’t even told another soul about their abuse, who have to go through the emotional and mental damage of what was brought on them. For him to lie about the attack and play victim is just sickening.”
Originally, Smollett was seen as a hero and had celebrities from all over sending their love and condolences after the alleged attack. There were countless rallies set up by members of the LGBTQIA+ showing their support for the Empire actor. However as months went by in the investigation, the Chicago Police department would name Smollett a person of interest and later charged him, after the two alleged attackers were brought in for questioning.
Oba and Abel Osundairo are brothers from Nigeria who knew Smollett after being casted as extras for the show. The two were brought in for questioning after they were seen close by following the attack due to surveillance footage from an apartment complex around the place of the alleged attack.
After being questioned, police would then go on to charge Smollett for filing a false police report, a class 4 felony. He surrendered into police custody in late February 2019 and would then be released from Empire following his arrest. Christina Bonne-Annee, a senior majoring in communications, feels that Smollett was “too messy” with the way he tried to orchestrate this attack.
“He did a bad job lying and for the police to be able to uncover it so quick was embarrassing on his part,” Bonne-Annee said.
Police released footage of the Osundairo brothers buying the supplies for the attack at a store and revealed Smollett wrote them a check for $3500, claiming it was for the brothers help of him getting in shape for his latest music video.
Phone records would also indicate countless calls made to the brothers cell phones, prior to the attack.
The case had an emergency hearing in March 2019 and all charges were dropped. However that wasn’t the end of this as the Chicago Police Department would then request for Smollett to pay them for the overtime work they spent on the case, believing that he was still lying although the case was dropped. The city of Chicago would then sue Smollett for three times the original amount the police department had requested, $130,000, according to BBC.com. Smollett would then be charged on 6 counts of lying to the police in February of 2020. His trial began in late November of that year and in December, would be found guilty of all counts. Smollett was sentenced in early March of 2022, three years after the first police report was reported.