Federal charges and civil lawsuits still loom for Jussie Smollett despite having all the criminal charges from his alleged hate crime hoax dropped.
The “Empire” actor is not out of the woods yet even after the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped 16 felony counts against him for allegedly filing a false police report about a hate crime in Chicago in January.
“At this point, all that’s happened is the state is telling us they’re not going to prosecute him on criminal charges, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be civil lawsuits going both ways,” Los Angeles based criminal attorney Alaleh Kamran told People on Tuesday.
“Jussie can sue the complaining witnesses, the complaining witnesses can sue him,” Kamran said. “I’m sure there will be lawsuits because there’s damages. Jussie’s career has been destroyed, his name and reputation has been dragged through the mud, I would be surprised if he does not pull some kind of civil action to, at the minimum, clear his name.”
Smollett has not been exonerated of the alleged disorderly conduct in staging the fake hate crime against himself and further criminal charges can still be brought against the 36-year-old actor.
“I think what happened is the prosecutor could not prove its case and they decided to cut their losses short right now before going any further and getting egg on their faces,” Kamran told People, noting that the situation is “highly unusual.”
An FBI investigation is still pending on the threatening letter Smollett claimed he received while on the “Empire” set of the Chicago Fox studio. The actor could face up to a decade in prison if he is found guilty of sending himself the hate mail laced with white powder days ahead of the staged attack.
“There is still a federal investigation pending and depending on whose fingerprints, DNA or whose identity is found on the letter, then there can be prosecution,” Kamran said.
Dropping charges in a case like this is “almost unheard of,” according to Fox News correspondent Judge Andrew Napolitano., who posited two reasons why the charges may have been dropped as Smollett’s record would also be expunged at the end of any probationary period.
“Either because the government could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt notwithstanding the evidence it has, or because it decided to grant Smollett what’s called a ‘deferred prosecution,’ which means a short period of probation, at the end of which the charges would be dismissed,” Napolitano said on “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday.
But this was not a deferred prosecution and the records in the case were sealed, Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown-Holmes, said in a press conference Tuesday.
Fox News reported:
On Wednesday, Napolitano said on “Varney & Co.” that due to Smollett’s expungement, he can can now legally say under oath that he was never indicted for the alleged crime and that if a judge’s mind were to be changed about the case, its records could be unsealed.
However, Smollett could never be charged in relation to the alleged hoax ever again.
Even the prosecutor who announced he was dropping the charges less than three weeks after a grand jury indicted the actor on felony disorderly conduct, still believes Smollett lied.
“We believe he did what he was charged with doing,” Joe Magats, the first assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois told CNN affiliate WLS. “This was not an exoneration. To say he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel not only slammed the decision to drop the 16 charges, he is considering suing Smollett in order to recover some of the close to $150,000 the city spent in the long investigation process, CBS News reported.
Though Smollett reportedly forfeited his $10,000 bond, Emanuel said that “doesn’t even come close to what the city spent in resources” on the case. The two-term Democratic mayor, who leaves office in May, joined Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson in angered reaction to the news that the charges had been dropped, calling it a “whitewash of justice.”
“A grand jury saw the evidence (and) realized this was a hoax — a hoax on the city, a hoax on hate crimes, a hoax on people of good values who actually were empathetic at first,” Emanuel said. “And he used that empathy for only one reason … himself.”