Law & the Courts

Jussie Smollett’s Google Headache

Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Ill., March 26, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)
Lots of things Smollett said privately before and after the most notorious fake attack since The War of the Worlds are about to become public.

If Jussie Smollett had last year pleaded guilty to some minor charge, done 90 days of community service, and paid a substantial fine to reimburse the $130,000 worth of overtime costs rolled up by Chicago police detectives investigating his ludicrous assault claims, he might today be in full rebound mode. Picture it: the tearful, dramatic mea culpa with Robin Roberts. A bold admission — “This is on me” — followed by a deflection of blame to drugs or alcohol or the dark demons of hate we all know are lurking out there, waiting for third-tier television stars to emerge from sandwich shops. A charity concert. A blessing from Al Sharpton. Some light-hearted banter with Stephen Colbert. Then, gradual forgiveness and maybe another TV deal.

What Smollett did instead looks increasingly stupid. He admitted nothing and even doubled down on his fantasy tale of a late-night attack by men supposedly roaming the streets with a noose and a bottle of bleach. He was handed the opportunity by the office of State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, which dropped charges without demanding a guilty plea because he had supposedly already been punished enough, by secretly serving a few hours’ community service and forfeiting a bond of which he paid a mere $10,000. But if he was the victim of a crime, why should he forfeit one dollar or agree to one hour of community service? Worse: The real criminals are still out there!

Led by the then-mayor and the then–CPD superintendent, outrage about Smollett’s lies caused the appointment of a special prosecutor, Dan Webb. So the story lives on. Smollett has not been nailed, and Chicago wants him nailed. He will get nailed. The postman always rings twice.

Webb has won the right to comb through Smollett’s emails, the Chicago Tribune reported last week. Smollett is not exactly a meticulous master criminal. The day the story broke, January 29, he was already telling different versions of his tall tale to the press and the police (who, if I know anything about police, therefore grokked that he was lying on the very first day).

A Chicago judge approved the special prosecutor’s request for search warrants to obtain from both Smollett and his manager “not just emails but also drafted and deleted messages; any files in their Google Drive cloud storage services; any Google Voice texts, calls and contacts; search and web browsing history; and location data.” Ouch. There is no chance that all of this information will back up Smollett’s made-for-TV claims about men roaming around looking for gay television actors to beat up while chanting MAGA slogans.

The search warrant was granted way back on December 6, and since the judge ordered Google and its “representatives, agents and employees” not to disclose his order to turn over the records because it might “jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation,” Smollett presumably had no idea his records were even being seized until the Tribune report ran on January 8.

So lots of things Smollett said privately before and after the most notorious fake attack by nonexistent evildoers since The War of the Worlds radio show are about to become public. Smollett’s career appears to be on pause. His income must be minimal after Fox fired him from Empire. His legal bills are piling up. Oh, and Dave Chappelle openly mocked him and rechristened him “Juicy Smollée.” Will the humiliation never end?

Smollett is not the only one on the hook. Foxx, Smollett’s apparent ally who let him skate, seems to be feeling the heat and has retained outside legal counsel. Foxx hired a lawyer to represent her personal interests and also brought in a former chief judge to respond to Webb’s inquiries about the state’s attorney’s office. This latter problem is costing taxpayers a significant amount: the lawyer is being paid (at a rate of $250 to $375 an hour) with public funds. Foxx is running for reelection but faces three Democratic opponents in a March primary.

Seems like it won’t be long before Special Prosecutor Webb uncovers what really happened with the case. The good news for Smollett, who in November of 2018 posed on Instagram in a shirt emblazoned with the word TRUTH in gigantic letters, is that he will at last be freed from his lies. After being forced to confess, he can get to work on rebuilding. Let the fake-apology tour begin!

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