Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts

Jebus, that’s a bunch of legal charges for perpetrating a hoax, and I didn’t expect such severity. Read the CNN article by clicking on the screenshot I got in an email:


  1. JB
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I am probably an outlier, but I believe that a harsh punishment for this young man is inappropriate. He’s obviously a troubled guy, probably has narcissistic tendencies (like much of the acting community), and was motivated by some really bad root desires. But, as a Coynian determinist, I don’t think retributive vengeful punishment is appropriate here. Sure, send a message to other would-be hoaxers (if people with mental problems can be effectively forewarned?!) but trying to “punish” him to “teach him a lesson” makes no sense.

    (And I have no problem with billing him for the amount spent by the city to investigate his hoax.)

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Even if he’s convicted of this, the judge has considerable latitude in the sentence. He might not serve any time in jail. The punishment comes not with the indictment, but with the sentencing. I agree with you that a harsh punishment doesn’t seem appropriate, but 16 felony charges is a pretty strong deterrent in itself.

    • Ken
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      He’ll plead guilty to a lot fewer than 16 felonies. Maybe in the meanwhile he can check himself into a rehab center so when the time comes he can throw himself on the mercy of the court. Hell, he may even come out of this with a career.

    • Taz
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      was motivated by some really bad root desires

      Simple greed if you ask me. This was a career move.

    • eric
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      It does seem somewhat absurd that he’s looking at a longer sentence than Manafort, a man who fraudulently took millions, possibly acted as a foreign agent, and lied under oath to judges over and over again.

      But, we’ll have to wait and see what sentence Mr. Smollett actually gets.

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 8, 2019 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        And don’t forget witness tampering. There is another 10-year sentence that can be leveled at Manafort next week. I would think the outrage of yesterday’s sentencing might influence next week’s sentence to be the full 10-years. As w/ Smollett, we’ll see.

      • Posted March 9, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        I am not a legal expert. Still, someone was pointing out to me that the mayor of Detroit about 10 years ago (Kwame Kilpatrick) got a sentence of almost 30 years for crimes similar to Manafort’s. Of course, part of the reason Kilpatrick’s sentence wound up being so harsh was that he refused to show any sort of contrition. But still.

        I can’t see Smollett presenting some sort danger to society. He obviously needs to face some legal consequences, but again I just don’t know enough about what the law actually says here.

        I’m curious to see *why* he did what he did, though. His story never really added up, but I admit that I was more or less willing to give him the benefit of doubt *just because* it seemed like there would be no reason to make up a story like that.

      • Posted March 9, 2019 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Whilst I generally agree with your post, “possibly acted as a foreign agent” doesn’t count. I don’t think people should be sentenced on the basis of what might be possible, but on what they have been convicted of.

  2. Ann German
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, if the Manafort sentencing is anything to go by, he’ll probably be lucky to dodge the electric chair.

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      I can see the judge tut-tutting, wringing hands, creased brow, pointing finger, and finally a delivery of sentence near tears, “Damn you, sir, you nearly made me believe that I reside in the vicinity of bigots. So, a year per charge. May gawd have mercy on you.”

  3. Mike Anderson
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    It would be funny if he got more time than Manafort.

    (And by “funny”, I mean: make you want to throw up.)

    • Mark R.
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      A defense attorney reported that he/she (don’t know gender) just represented someone who stole $100 worth of quarters from a laundry mat. Sentence: 4-years. Our judicial system is seriously flawed.

      • Trevor Adcock
        Posted March 9, 2019 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        Would you look so kindly on a theft of 100 dollars against yourself? If not, then why condemn the thief who robbed this other man?

        Do you imagine a law that only applies to yourself? What a tyrant you make yourself.

        • Jonathan Wallace
          Posted March 9, 2019 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          Where did you see anything to suggest Mark R ‘looked kindly’ on the laundromat thief?

          There is nothing tyrannical about looking at sentences issued to two different criminals and questioning whether the relative sizes of the sentences truly reflect the relative severity of the crimes.

          Mananfort committed a number of crimes against the entire American people. Do you think his crimes were no more serious than that of the man who stole $100?

          • Mark R.
            Posted March 9, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

            Yes…what Mr. Wallace said. Don’t think I’ve ever been accused of tyranny. 😉

        • Posted March 9, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          I think the point is that Paul Mannafort – who apparently stole millions and was found guilty of a number of other highly questionable crimes – also got four years (well, 47 months).

          Yes, I’d be quite upset if somebody stole $100 off me, but my ire might be litigated if, for example, the thief was starving or unable to pay the rent. However, if somebody stole $millions off me, that would be far mote of an issue.

  4. dd
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I followed the case closely.

    Smollett lied at almost every turn to officials and planted evidence.

    If hate crimes are a serious thing, then plotting to falsify one, and sustaining the chicanery and falsehood over extended time, is also a serious thing

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Just read the indictment, which can be found here.

    Sixteen felony counts arising from a single incident strikes me as a might heavy-handed.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

      According to TMZ, according to the indictment, that’s one count for each false statement in the course of two police interviews.

      • Posted March 8, 2019 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Well, you can be a cop who shoots a kid 16 times and get 16 charges for one crime (plus a few more for good measure) and only get 7 so he should be alright.

      • Posted March 9, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        Yes, I heard this too on CNN. The 16 counts are merely one for each overt act. Unlike with murders, we should not take this number as an indicator of the severity of the crime but Smollett’s persistence in sticking with his (allegedly) false story.

    • JB
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      I think the police and the city’s governance took this hoax rather personally and want to make a strong statement. Perhaps they’ll be satisfied with the indictment sending a strong message and not feel the further need to see Smollett spend years in prison.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree. 16 counts from one ‘crime’ is blatantly excessive. Evidently someone decided to throw the book at him.

      I put ‘crime’ in quotes because I’m not quite sure what to call it. I do think he should face charges and probably do some time for it – something like a month.

      Incidentally, can judges in your country toss out ‘counts’ if they think there are too many?
      I recall attending magistrates court decades ago where the local traffic cop had been ticket-happy and the magistrate was dismissing duplicate charges right left and centre.
      One guy was charged with ‘careless driving’ and ‘failing to keep left’ because he came out of his driveway and drove down the wrong side of the (empty) road for 50 yards. Magistrate: ‘Well it seems to me these are two charges arising out of the one offence. Would you care to withdraw one charge and I’ll deal with the other?’. Cop (going red): ‘Very well, I’ll withdraw Failing to keep left.’ Magistrate (blandly): ‘Well, actually Careless Driving is the more serious charge. I had it in mind that you might have wished to withdraw that one.’
      It was worth my (small) fine for ‘Obscured number plate’ for the entertainment value.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted March 8, 2019 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

        From the article:

        “A person commits disorderly conduct when he or she knowingly … (4) Transmits or causes to be transmitted in any manner to any peace officer, public officer or public employee a report to the effect that an offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed, knowing at the time of the transmission that there is no reasonable ground for believing that the offense will be committed, is being committed, or has been committed.”

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      An American judge can dismiss counts of an indictment, under the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy clause, if the counts are “multiplicitous” — viz,, if separate counts in the indictment charge the exact same crime. “Multiplicity” is difficult to establish, however, since to avoid it, the indictment need only allege a single separate fact required to be proved to obtain a conviction in each count (in Smollett’s case, that each count is based on a separate false statement made to law enforcement).

      The primary way that US judges address overcharging is by running any punishments together at sentencing — by, for example, imposing any jail or prison terms to run concurrently with each other.

  6. Filippo
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Reading recently in the NY Times of many R Kelly and Michael Jackson enthusiasts rising up in vocal support of them, I contemplate who may similarly rise up in support of Smollett.

  7. Posted March 8, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Everyone I knew- black folks included- pretty much figured from the start that it was a hoax. All those details, *and* he left the noose around his neck to wait for police?

    Who writes checks to pay for criminal activity? (Other than #45, of course.)He was a poster child for doing everything wrong.

    He cost the taxpayers money, make him pay it back. Anything else is pointless.

    • yazikus
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Yes to all this.

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      He should do time. What he pulled is no joke.

      • Mark R.
        Posted March 8, 2019 at 7:50 pm | Permalink


  8. DrBrydon
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Ouch. Well that played out differently than he thought it would.

  9. Susan Davies
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    What a moron. He had the world at his feet, with an enviable career and the world at his feet. Idiot.

    • Vaal
      Posted March 8, 2019 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      I was watching some documentary stuff on the Evergreen College fiasco and your comment reminded me about it. The amazing thing about Evergreen was that it was among the most progressive and accommodating schools in the USA. Few student populations have ever been more explicitly pandered to.

      And yet the desire-for-grievances simply expanded to fill any void. When offence and violence are to be uncovered under every stone, increasing sensitivity and entitlement
      and a sense of righteous fury just aim at whatever’s left.

      Smollet seems like something of a side-effect of this: a black, gay man, extremely successful, and PLAYING a black, gay man in a progressive-minded TV show. But…that’s not enough. SJW, victim-fetishizing and grievance means you can never be satisfied, never dial it down. So one of the countries most successful black/gay men traded in the currency of victim-hood, apparently under the impression he could accomplish MORE under the status of “victim” than as an example of simply being a wealthy, successful black, gay man.

      And of course the ends justify the means.

  10. rustybrown
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I say hooray. Hate hoaxes are on the rise and are incredibly damaging. It’s about time some harsh sentences were incurred to discourage this trend. These are not victimless crimes; they are calculated and malicious.

  11. dd
    Posted March 8, 2019 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I just saw, on another topic, that the NYTimes wrote this evening about those andti-Semitic floats in Belgium…

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I guess this guy’s 15 minutes is finally up. We can now move on to the freak show in the next tent. Or maybe it is just – back to the latest Trump freak show for the day. Actually Ellis, the idiot judge who just finished with Manafort would probably give this guy far more years than he gave to Manafort. Unlike Manafort he probably would not qualify with having led an otherwise perfect life.

  13. Posted March 9, 2019 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Smollett’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, is a real piece of work. His interview on CNN reminds me of Rudy Giuliani defending Trump. He was tap-dancing as fast as he could. He is claiming that the police are railroading his client but won’t give an alternative version of the what happened. There was nothing about looking for the real attackers, nor did he accuse the two brothers of attacking his client for real. He claimed the check Smollett paid to the brothers as for “training”. It sounded like a load of bull.

  14. Joe Baldassano
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you Dr. Coyne for your exceptional review of Behe’s most recent endeavor to lather additional lipstick on the wearisome and discredited ID pig.

    The invention of religion is Humankind’s most deadly weapon of mass destruction.

  15. Adam M.
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I agree about the excessiveness of 16 charges, but it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in this country. For whatever reason, prosecutors here seem to regularly stack up excessive charges. I expect they’re hoping for an easy plea deal rather than a sticky case in court, but the whole system of overcharging people to “force” them into a plea deal out of fear (even occasionally when they’re actually innocent), perverts our system of justice.

  16. Max Blancke
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    A fake hate crime, if not exposed for what it is, has exactly the same result as a real hate crime.
    There have been hundreds of these events. Here is another that was revealed today:

    As far as I am concerned, Mr. Smollett is a person who hired a couple of thugs to beat up and throw gasoline on a Black man. The guy in the daily mail article is a person who spray painted swastikas and KKK symbols, and made death threats to “All N****s on campus”.
    The people who were the “other” targets of those threats were just as terrorized by them as they would have been if the threats were made by Nazis or klansmen.

    Imagine if you or I had been walking through that neighborhood at the time of the Smollett incident. Do you imagine for one moment that you would not be trying to prove you did not try to lynch someone?

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