A Republican senator is calling on federal prosecutors to investigate Jussie Smollett, after Chicago prosecutors abruptly dropped charges the “Empire” actor faced following accusations that he orchestrated a fake hate crime against himself.
“The dismissal of all charges against Jussie Smollett is just another example of Hollywood privilege,” Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “There shouldn’t be one set of rules for ordinary people and another set of rules for Hollywood actors with political connections.”
Kennedy’s comments came after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a surprise statement Tuesday that prosecutors dismissed all charges “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.”
On Thursday, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that the FBI and Justice Department will investigate the “outrageous” decision.
Smollett continues to say he was the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack in the Illinois city, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police chief condemned the deal prosecutors made to drop all 16 felony charges Smollett faced, the Associated Press reports. Kennedy condemned the decision as well, saying that “what Smollett is accused of doing is disgusting.”
“Since Chicago prosecutors refuse to do their job, the U.S. attorney should review the case for violations of federal crimes,” Kennedy said.
Cook County prosecutors said Tuesday that they believed dropping the charges was “a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.” Prosecutors specifically said the move “did not exonerate Mr. Smollett,” but said avoiding traditional prosecution isn’t unusual.
“In the last two years, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution,” prosecutors said. “This is not a new or unusual practice. An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence.”
Other senators have weighed in on the latest Smollett development, including at least one 2020 presidential contender.
“To be perfectly honest ... I’m completely confused. I don’t understand. I don’t know. I don’t know the underlying evidence,” California Democrat Kamala Harris told Wolf Blitzer on his CNN show Tuesday. “There’s a sealed document, obviously. I don’t know. I’m at a loss.”
Harris told Blitzer the situation should now be left to the combined judgment of the local prosecutors, police chief and mayor. She had previously called the incident “an attempted modern day lynching,” writing on Twitter that Smollett was “one of the kindest, most gentle human beings I know.”
Smollett reported that two masked men attacked him late at night in January, yelling slurs, beating him, putting a rope around his neck and dumping bleach on him — while police said Smollett hired two men to fake the attack, AP reports.
“If you or I did what he did, we would be put under the jail,” Kennedy said.