That sweetheart deal Jussie Smollett cut with city prosecutors over his alleged hoax of a hate-crime attack turned out to be a little too sweet. An Illinois judge rejected Smollett’s motion to dismiss new charges involving the same allegations on the basis of double jeopardy:
New criminal charges against actor Jussie Smollett do not violate his right against double jeopardy, a Cook County, Illinois judge ruled Friday.
Judge James Linn said the case against Smollett, the former Empire TV star accused of setting up a false claim of assault by two men who uttered racial slurs, will continue. …
Smollett previously agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and made no admission of wrongdoing in exchange for having 16 charges against him on the phony assault case dropped. The decision to drop the case was controversial and sparked outrage among law enforcement and government officials.
It turns out that Smollett and his attorneys were too clever by half. They structured the non-prosecution agreement so that Smollett never had to admit wrongdoing and never got officially convicted of the crime. Guess what that means, Linn asked — and answered:
Linn Friday said the agreement Smollett reached with prosecutors in 2019 was not considered punishment, because the actor never admitted wrongdoing. At the time, Smollett agreed to forfeit his bond to Chicago police and do community service.
“There was no trial in this case, there was no jury empaneled, no witnesses were sworn, no evidence was heard, no guilty pleas were ever entered … nothing like that ever happened,” Linn said of the 2019 case. “There was no adjudication of this case.”
Had Smollett just admitted his guilt in that proceeding and taken the loss, he’d have been protected against a double-jeopardy prosecution. That was really all the Chicago police and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted at that time anyway. Smollett refused to bend, however, and Foxx crafted an escape hatch that turned out to be a trap in the end.
The escape hatch was faulty in another way, too. Smollett can’t rely on the non-prosecution agreement for any commitment against further prosecution because the agreement itself was corrupt, Linn ruled:
Linn also noted Smollett’s new case was brought after another judge, Michael Toomin, ruled that his first prosecution was void because Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx improperly recused herself.
The new case was brought by attorney Dan Webb, whom Toomin appointed as a special prosecutor.
However, had Smollett admitted guilt in that process or accepted a similar judgment through a no-contest plea — even to a lesser charge — that would not have been an obstacle. Either of those options would have precluded any further prosecution, even if the agreement was invalid (unless there was evidence of Smollett’s direct participation in corruption leading to the agreement, which is another can of worms).
Smollett wanted to eat his cake and have it too. Instead, he might need a cake with a file in it before all of this is over, unless he wises up and cuts an actual deal that admits wrongdoing.
Note: Reworded first paragraph to eliminate some rhetorical redundancy.