Thursday, after nine hours of deliberations, the jury in actor Jussie Smollett’s trial returned a verdict of guilty on five out of six counts of concocting a hoax hate crime and lying to the police about it.
The big question remaining, of course, was “Why not all six?” Smollett was acquitted on one count of felony disorderly conduct related to making a false police report, which the prosecutor couldn’t explain, but he said it wasn’t significant to the state’s case. But Smollett’s lawyer seized on that one acquittal as proof that Smollett will win on appeal. Yes, apparently, he intends to go into a higher court and try to sell this load of bad clams a second time. If his defense is as good as it was the first time around, perhaps the appeal can result in a guilty verdict on all six charges, with perjury in the first trial thrown in for good measure.
Reaction to the trial has been interesting. Some of the big liberal celebrities and news media figures who rushed to support Smollett at first, since his lies played into their cherished false narrative of Trump supporters being violent, homophobic racists, are being awfully quiet now. His former staunch supporter, CNN’s Don Lemon, threw Jussie under the bus and branded him a liar who’s made it harder for real victims of hate crimes. Perhaps he's smarting from Smollett’s testimony that revealed he was using his contacts, Chris Cuomo-style, to let Smollett know what the cops were thinking about his claims.
Not surprisingly, the most unhinged reaction came from the Black Lives Matter group, which doubled down on its support of Smollett, claimed that we can never believe cops, and demanded the abolition of police, even as crime and murder rates are skyrocketing in cities that have defunded police departments, and where many of the victims are black.
Personally, I would find it a lot easier to believe that some cops went out for donuts at 2 a.m. on a sub-freezing Chicago night than that Jussie went out for Subway sandwiches at that time and just happened to bump into two racist Trump supporters who (A.) recognized him because they watch “Empire” and (B.) just happened to be carrying bleach and a noose. I guess they were on their way to the all-night rope laundromat.
The reason it was so easy for liberals to believe such a transparently ridiculous story is that the media have been retailing hoaxes and lies about Trump and his supporters for so long that believing the worst has become a reflex for them. Victoria Taft notes that this case now joins a list of hundreds of fake hate crimes in the past few years (from a site we’ve cited before, fakehatecrimes.org), and reminds us of a few that got plenty of hysterical media coverage, only to fizzle out when they were exposed as hoaxes:
I’ll give the final word to Stephen Kruiser of PJ Media, who says he’s so fed up with these race-baiting liars, he just wants them gone and for Smollett to “spend the rest of his pathetic life in prison.”
He also revives an argument that, if you’re old enough to remember, was made when “hate crime” laws were first proposed, but it’s since become so un-PC that few dare make it: that the very concept of “hate crimes” is inherently racist, and that punishment should be based on the crime, not the victim’s race. For instance, the argument is that adding extra punishment to an assault charge because of the victim’s race implies that some races are more valuable than others, and the charge should just be assault on another human being, with the punishment neither greater nor less because of the races of the victim or perpetrator.
You can agree or disagree with the premise, but there’s no denying that creating a new category of “hate crimes” has given rise to a wave of people who seek to divide Americans and advance themselves by faking hate crimes. Kruiser’s article includes a good point: if we’re going to increase the punishment for a crime because it’s branded a “hate crime,” and that's more serious than a regular crime, shouldn’t we also double the punishment for filing false police reports to fake a hate crime?