Buckle your seatbelts folks! This is gonna be a long one.
My friend Paul Stukel said it. Real Clear Politics said it. And, of course Tribune columnist John Kass said it. But they’re all wrong! Whatever prompted the players to give ‘Empire’ buffoon Jussie Smollett a free felony pass had absolutely nothing to do with “The Chicago Way.”
The Chicago Way may baffle and befuddle folks from backward burbs like New York, LA, and anywhere in Indiana, but in the end, it always makes sense in all sorts of majestically peculiar and wondrous ways.
Alderman Marty Quinn’s minions trying to erase 2,609 non-existent signatures from a competitor’s nominating paperwork is the Chicago Way. And his city council competitor turning out to be a white supremacist Trump supporter could only happen in the Windy City.
Speaker Mike Madigan’s lackeys lying in wait to insert last-minute candidates of the appropriate ethnicity to doom the hopes of anyone with the temerity to run against him is the Chicago Way.
And two of those lackeys mysteriously “disappearing” right before their lawsuit deposition could only happen in the City that Works. There’s a reason the renowned Second City comedy Troupe launched here and not in Podunk towns like Atlanta, St. Louis, or God forbid, Milwaukee. Chicagoans have a sense of humor!
For the cave dwellers among us, gay black ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett, unhappy with his $20,000 an episode salary, staged a hate crime against himself complete with two MAGA cap wearing friends accosting him in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood at 2 a.m. on a polar vortex February night.
Why this criminal mastermind thought an assault would mean a raise and anyone would buy this bilge is beyond me.
Given her ties to the Smollett family, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself and her second-in-command brought down the hammer in the form of 16 felony disorderly conduct charges. Put more simply, Smollett was looking at real jail time.
But then, in what can only be described as a bonafide biblical parting-of-the-Red Sea epic miracle, the CCSAO not only dropped every single charge, but they expunged Smollett’s record and the judge sealed the case. It’s the kinda thing that puts that mystical Monopoly get out of jail free card to abject shame.
Oh! But he did have to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Poor baby! As you might imagine, this bizarre turn of events has Roger Stone, El Chapo, and Robert Kraft begging to have their cases heard in Chicago. Who could blame them?
But despite the bizarre nature of this pre-trial acquittal, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the Chicago Way. Here’s why:
1. Kim Foxx is finished
When her recusal didn’t work out quite the way she thought it would, Ms. Foxx clearly came storming back to take control of the proceedings. And dropping 16 felonies is going to stick to her with far more magnetic zeal than the Laquan McDonald coverup did to predecessor Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
And we all know that ended their political careers.
Somebody must’ve offered Foxx one hell of a job to get her to commit this kind of public political suicide.
2. Toni Preckwinkle is done
Much like Machine guilt by association doomed Susana Mendoza’s mayoral hopes, now it’s Ms. Preckwinkle’s turn. All previous Teflon qualities aside, with Kass that Foxx is a Preckwinkle protégé, that’s all it’s gonna take to turn what was supposed to be a tight Chicago mayoral race into a rout.
Unless Preckwinkle harbors the same kind of suicidal penchant that would make her a willing part of this, what would make Foxx turn on her patron and mentor in this heinous a manner? This marks the beginning of the end of Preckwinkle’s political career and that certainly ain’t the Chicago Way.
3. I wouldn’t want to be a Cook County prosecutor right now
From their budget right down to misdemeanor cases, a state’s attorney’s office relies upon the good graces of local law enforcement and political leadership to be effective. I never thought I’d see the day a sitting Chicago mayor and Police chief stand in front of the cameras and call out the CCSAO in no uncertain terms.
That image renders me completely speechless and, trust me, there will be hell to pay for this incomprehensible decision.
4. He didn’t even have to allocute!
Had Smollett said something like, “This was a serious error in judgment for which I take full responsibility. I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done, and I promise I will make this up to the people of Chicago, my coworkers, and most of all, anyone who’s been the victim of a real hate crime,” it would’ve gone a long way towards mitigating his free pass.
But no! Smollett used his immense good fortune as a platform from which to attack the Chicago Police Department. And no CPD office on the planet – past or present – will ever forget that kind of indecency. Were I a member of the Smollett family, I’d be hightailing it out of Chicago as we speak!
5. Smollett ain’t got that kind of clout
‘Empire’ had two good years, but ratings have since plummeted to the point where there probably won’t be a sixth season. If the show is somehow renewed, considering the cast members’ reaction to Smollett’s shenanigans, he role will be recast or dropped. Then he’ll be Hollywood poison.
Ed Burke getting handily reelected in the face of federal charges is “clout.” But these people sticking their political necks out for a low IQ actor is beyond comprehension.
6. The Obamas were not involved
Yes! Smollett’s attorney was Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff, but what could make the former President and First Lady risk their reputations on a C level celebrity? Not even crazy conspiracy theorist John Kass promoted that possibility.
And what kind of power does an ex-president really have? Everyone involved in this mess already had A level connections and most state’s attorneys would laugh at an ex-president who tried to pull those kinds of strings.
C’mon! The Obamas’ mayoral endorsement wasn’t enough to propel Preckwinkle over the top against a political unknown.
None of this is the Chicago way – it’s not even close! Perhaps all that Chicago River green dye has some sort of deleterious long-term side effect. That certainly would explain a lot.
But fret not dear reader, that Lyric Opera fat lady is only clearing her throat. It would seem that Smollett availed himself of the U.S. Postal Service to perpetrate this fraud against the people of Chicago, and that misstep caught the eye of those Dirksen Building federal agents, who don’t share our wonderful sense of humor.
So, Smollett’s free pass may well turn out to be the worst thing that could happen to him. And that kind of fascinating political karma has always been a part of the Chicago Way. Just ask Ed Burke.