Smollett case revives questions on Laquan McDonald, justice

Posted Friday, 14 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

CHICAGO  — When a grand jury revived the criminal case against Jussie Smollett, the indictment for many people called to mind two nights on two different streets in the same big city. On one Chicago street was a wealthy, famous black man who claimed he was a victim of a racist, anti-gay attack. On the other street was a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer. A day after Smollett was charged for a second time with staging the attack, the two cases reopened divisive arguments about the role of race and class in the justice system and what fairness looks like. “The integrity of the legal system is at stake,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law. If Smollett "would have walked away, everybody would have thought there is no justice in Cook County." A special prosecutor decided to prosecute Smollett again, 11 months after county prosecutors dropped charges that the “Empire” actor hired two men to fake the attack to further his career. He has maintained his innocence. Delmarie Cobb, a local media and political consultant, said she thinks less about Smollett's account of what happened, which she never believed, than about the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald and how it took the city a year to release the dashcam video — only after a judge ordered it — and to charge the officer with murder. “As a black person, I am insulted by the whole thing and ... all I can think about is 16 counts versus 16 shots,” she said, referring to the number of counts of disorderly conduct that prosecutors originally charged Smollett with. She wondered about all the anger expressed by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and others who blasted Smollett for lying to police and smearing the city after evidence pointed to a conspiracy to mislead authorities and drum up publicity. “Where was the outrage when Laquan McDonald was killed in the year before we discovered the video?” she asked. What is more outrageous, Cobb said, was watching the police department throw dozens of officers working hundreds of hours onto Smollett's case, which involved no injuries, while giving far less attention to the hundreds of shooting deaths elsewhere in the city. The department, she added, went so far as to track down Smollett's alleged accomplices in Africa while its rate of resolving homicide cases lags far behind other major police forces. Erickson and others suggested that Smollett's case also raises serious questions about political influence. They say special prosecutor Dan Webb's investigation was important because of what happened in the days after Smollett was first charged: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx communicated with a member of Smollett's family at the request of Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama's former chief of staff. Her actions, critics say, sent a powerful message to anyone who was paying attention. “This told everyone if you have the right friends, you can get away with it,” Erickson said. “The last thing a prosecutor should do is take the political temperature of anything and make decisions based on that kind of influence,” said Ron Allen, a professor at Northwestern University's law school. “That's utterly despicable.” Smollett was accused of stoking racial tensions with his claim that his attackers looped a rope fashioned as a noose around his neck. Erickson and Allen believe Foxx turned the case into a lesson about influence. “Race has nothing to do with juice in Chicago,” Erickson said, referring to political clout or influence. “People of all colors have juice in Chicago.” Foxx said she recused herself from the matter before her office secured an indictment against Smollett, but she continued to weigh in throughout the case. She has suggested the criticism does have a lot to do with race — her race. “I have been asking myself for the last two weeks what is this really about?” she said last year after her office dropped the charges. “As someone who has lived in this city, who came up in the projects of this city to serve as the first African American woman in this role, it is disheartening to me ... that when we get in these positions somehow the goal posts change.” On Wednesday, it was not lost on her that the six-count indictment came just weeks before an election in which Foxx's opponents are using her handling of the Smollett case against her. “I certainly would hope that the decision in this case was based on the facts, the evidence and the law,” she said. Marshall Hatch, a prominent minister on the city's West Side, said he thinks the charges are part of a larger effort to siphon enough black votes away from Foxx to cost her a second term. As an example, he pointed to a television ad by one of her opponents that includes a young black woman who says she did not get the same kind of treatment in her criminal case as Smollett did. Foxx has “done a good job for our community, and now this will be used to kind of muddy her up,” he said.

Other articles published by Las Vegas Sun

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Since the first person tested positive for the coronavirus in Nevada, the pathogen has swept Southern Nevada with alarming speed — from one to two cases, then a few dozen and then a couple hundred. By the time you read this, the number will certainly...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Awaiting a COVID-19 test result, Shira has been isolated in her Henderson home since Sunday. Unable to spend time with her family until she receives the results of her test in a few days, she did her best to celebrate her daughter’s birthday on Monday, ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

It was a simple, yet powerful message from a high school student-athlete: “You can’t win a game by yourself,” the Spring Valley High flag football player said. One by one, students in Billy Hemberger’s sports leadership course at Spring Valley...

There’s no time to waste Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

We have heard over and over again that the stock market hates uncertainty. Humans likewise hate uncertainty. However, today, both our lives and our economy are more uncertain than ever. If this is “war,” then let’s spend as if it were. This is no...

President just passes the buck Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

I am amazed at how often President Donald Trump, in the public arena, blames others as part of his explanation of whatever topic he has on his mind. Recently, the topic has been mostly the coronavirus pandemic. If Trump gets any pushback from reporters,...

Utility workers being responsible Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

I’m a lineman for NV Energy. I’m not a spokesperson, just an average guy, just doing my part to keep the power on. I want to let the public know that NVEnergy has taken a proactive approach to provide reliable of service during the pandemic. My union ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Zach Whitecloud signed a two-year extension with the Golden Knights on Sunday, securing the 23-year-old defenseman’s future with the team through the summer of 2022. Even when his contract expires, however, Whitecloud likely isn’t going anywhere....

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County health officials backtracked Tuesday on their announcement that a child died from coronavirus, saying it’s possible the death was caused by something else. During their daily briefing, the county health department...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Washtenaw Golf Club, one of the oldest courses in Michigan, typically only has to worry about the weather in March. Now there is a far more serious issue to contemplate: the new coronavirus. "This is the one thing we didn't think...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Trevor May has been preparing for this. Not precisely for a global pandemic that would bring sports — and so much else — to an unprecedented standstill. Even hours and hours of dystopian video games couldn't help foresee that. But a break in the...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

WASHINGTON — The State Department has advised against all international travel because of the coronavirus, but that didn't stop Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from flying to Afghanistan this week. Gyms across the nation's capital are shuttered, but...

South Korea investigates chatroom sex abuse allegations Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday began reviewing whether to formally charge a man arrested last week on allegations that he operated secret chatrooms where he posted sexually abusive videos of blackmailed women in return for...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

NEW DELHI — The world's largest democracy went under the world's biggest lockdown Wednesday, with India's 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home in a bid to stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading and overwhelming its fragile health care system...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

For Anna, a 33-year-old American woman stranded in a Peruvian hotel room and out of life-saving medication to treat her auto-immune disease, the clock is ticking. After Peru ordered its borders closed March 15 in an effort to hinder the spread of the new ...

Posted Wednesday, 25 March 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

STORRS, Conn. — All but one of Anna Makurat's teammates headed home after the NCAA canceled this year's postseason basketball tournament and the school suspended classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 19-year-old UConn freshman from Poland, the...