‘Whitewash Of Justice’: Mayor Emanuel, Police Supt. Johnson React To Dropped Charges In Smollett Case

Craig Dellimore
March 26, 2019 - 1:45 pm
Mayor Emanuel addressed the media Tuesday at Navy Pier after hearing the charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped.

WBBM Newsradio/Craig Dellimore

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Without knowing about the development ahead of time, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel angrily reacted to the news of all charges being dropped against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett his record was expunged Tuesday in an "emergency" court hearing.

Mayor Emanuel and Supt. Johnson addressed the media Tuesday afternoon at Navy Pier.

Related: Charges Dropped In Case Against 'Empire' Actor Jussie Smollett

"My personal opinion is that you all know where I stand on this," Johnson said. "Do I think justice was served? No. Where do I think justice is? I think this city is still owed an apology; and let me digress for a moment. When I first came on this job, I've been a cop for 31 years, when I came on this job, I came on with my honor, my integrity, my reputation. If I did anything that would circumvent that, I would want my day in court, period, to clear my name. 

"I've heard they wanted their day in court with TV cameras, so America could know the truth. But now they chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system," Johnson opened with.

The news that 16 felony charges of disorderly conduct had been dropped Smollett came as a surprise to Johnson, who earlier told the public he was angry and offended that Smollett allegedly lied about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. He then said Smollett's staged a publicity stunt that "was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve."

Smollett's attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said Tuesday morning that Smollett's record "has been wiped clean". Smollett will forfeit the $10,000 bail he posted after his arrest.

Emanuel then made a lengthy statement, portraying anger and citing the Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation:

"One thing is not only do I support the hard work of our police officers and detective units, but I'd like to remind everybody the grand jury indicted this individual based on only a piece of the evidence that the police had collected in that period of time; so the grand jury actually brought the charges. Three things I would like to say: one, on financial costs, the $10,000 doesn't even come close to what the city spent in resources to actually look over the cameras, gather all the data, gather all the information that actually brought the indictment by the grand jury on many, many multiple charges.

"Second is what I would call the ethical costs. And the ethical cost is you have a person who is in the House of Representatives when we try to pass the Shepard legislation that dealt with hate crimes, putting them on the books, that President Obama then signed into law. To then use those very laws and the principles and values behind the Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation to self-promote your career is a cost that comes to all the individuals, gay men and women, who will come forward and one day say they were a victim of a hate crime, who will now be doubted. People of faith, Muslim or any other religious faith who will be a victim of hate crime. People of all walks of life and backgrounds, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation - now this cast a shadow of whether they are telling the truth and he did this all in the name of self-promotion! And he used the laws of the hate crime legislation that all of us collectively over years have put on the books to stand up to be the values that embody what we believe in.

"This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clear," Emanuel said.

"To then, not only say the cost of $10,000 doesn't come close financially, but all the other repercussions of this decision made. Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have, because of a person's position one set of rules apply to them, and another set of rules apply to everyone else," he continued. "In another way, you are seeing this play out in universities, where people pay extra to get their kids a special position in universities. Now you have a person, because of their position and background who is getting treated in no other way anyone else would.

"Our officers did hard work, day in and day out, countless hours working to unwind what actually happened that night. The city saw it's reputation dragged through the mud, but I remind everybody that it was not just the officers work. A piece of that work was shown to a grand jury and they made a decision based on only a sliver of evidence. Because of the judge's decision, none of that evidence will ever be made public. This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power you'll get treated one way, other people will get treated another way. There is no accountability then in the system. It is wrong, full stop," Emanuel said.

Johnson addressed the media Tuesday at Navy Pier after hearing the charges were dropped.
WBBM Newsradio/Craig Dellimore

After the statements, the two responded to media questions.

Reporter: Do you blame the State's Attorney's office for this decision?

"I commend the officers and the grand jury for their decisions," Emanuel said.

Reporter: Superintendent Johnson, does Kim Foxx owe you an apology, too?

"At the end of the day, like I said, our jobs as police officers is to present them with the evidence. The apology comes from the person that did this. If you want to say you are innocent of a situation, then you take your day in court. I would never, if someone falsely accused me, I would never hide behind a brokered deal and secrecy, period," Johnson said.

Reporter: Don't you think this was incredibly disrespectful? You worked hand-in-hand with the State's Attorney's office and your department on cases every day. To think of the man hours your detectives spent on this and to not get at least a phone call from her office saying, 'hey this is what's happening today.' Personally, how did you feel about that?

"Well, prosecutors have their discretion of course. We still have to work with the State's Attorney's office. I am sure we will have some conversation after this, but again, at the end of the day, it is Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period. If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence. You all know what the bond proffer said. I stand by the facts of what we produced, if they want to dispute those facts, then the place to do that is court, not secrecy," Johnson said.

Emanuel cut in and said, "Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department - how dare him? How dare him? After everybody saw, and I want to remind you this is not the Superintendent's word against his, the grand jury - a sliver of the evidence and they came to a conclusion. As did the State's Attorney's office. This is not the Superintendent's and detectives' words against his. And even after this whitewash, still no sense of ownership of what he has done. He said, in fact, that he the wronged in this case. This is an unbelievable, not just whitewash of justice, but this is a person now let off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions, from top to bottom...is there no decency in this man?"

Attorneys Glandian and Brown Holmes issued a statement after the hearing:

“Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment...

“Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”

Among the questions that weren't immediately answered was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack and whether there's new evidence that altered their view of events. Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors' office offered no detailed explanation.

Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said in a statement, "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."

In a later statement, prosecutors said there was nothing wrong with the police investigation and Smollett was not exonerated. Rather, they said, his case received the type of "alternative disposition" that a similar defendant would.