Nolte: Experts Say Jussie Smollett Could Face Career Ruin and Prison

JUNE 06: Actor Jussie Smollett speaks onstage during the Global Green USA 19th Annual Millennium Awards on June 6, 2015 in Century City, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GLOBAL GREEN USA)
Rachel Murray/Getty Images for GLOBAL GREEN USA

Empire star Jussie Smollett is facing prison time and the loss of his career if it’s proved he lied about being the target of a hate crime, experts tell the far-left Variety.

According to police sources and all kinds of media reports, Jussie Smollett (who is black and gay) did lie about being assaulted by two racist, homophobic Donald Trump supporters in the middle of the night on January 29.

The story was preposterous to begin with. In order to believe it, one was forced to buy into the idea MAGA hat-wearing bigots were running around downtown Chicago in subzero weather carrying bleach and wielding a noose in the hopes of running into an openly gay black man like Smollett.

“This is MAGA country!” the face-masked yahoos reportedly yelled as they poured bleach on Smollett’s black skin and tied a noose around his neck. Bruised, humiliated, and still carrying his cell phone and Subway sandwich, Smollett somehow survived.

Nevertheless, due to their own prejudices and bigotry, a number of terrible people in politics, media, and Hollywood chose to believe Smollett’s story; and they ran with it, and now they look ridiculous (including a handful of Democrat presidential candidates) and are being forced to clean up their own appalling role in advancing Smollett’s hate crime.

On top of all this, it appears as though Smollett might have mailed that infamous hate letter (filled with powder that turned out to be harmless) to himself, or he at least had some role in arranging it.

What we do know is that Smollett’s co-conspirators have rolled on him. The two brothers (both black) he hired to stage the attack are singing like Sinatra, and that includes the news of the phony hate mail.

And so there will be a reckoning, experts say, a legal and reputational one that could result in Smollett being tossed in the clink for a few years, followed by his banishment into a career wilderness from which he will never return.

“It’s a very high-profile case,” a former prosecutor told Variety. “Prosecutors tend to be tougher because everybody’s watching. … I think they may come down hard, in terms of not reducing it to a misdemeanor.”

Defense attorney Steve Greenberg believes Smollett could also face obstruction of justice charges, but it’s unlikely he will go to prison.

“They’re not going to ruin a guy’s life over this. People make false reports all the time to the police. They get in a DUI, they call police and say, ‘My car was stolen.’ Ninety percent of the time, even if they’re charged with a felony, those people end up pleading to a misdemeanor,” he said.

On the career front, things could be even more unforgiving; we are talking a Lance Armstrong-style expulsion from the rarified world of celebrity.

“If he made this up, he broke the trust of a lot of his fans,” a PR expert told Variety. “Say you lied and you’re sorry for that lie. Apologize to the people who have supported you, promise to make it up, and find a cause that’s near and dear to your heart and devote yourself to it.”

Another PR exec told Variety that if Smollett lied his only hope is to fess up immediately and throw himself at the mercy of the legal system and the court of public opinion.

“He needs to get ahead of this as much as he can,” he said. “He needs to go see the police. He needs to apologize. He needs to make the announcement about what happened instead of letting the facts leak out. If he lied, there’s no excuse, but there may be some explanation.”

On top of everything else, if Smollett is convicted of anything involving the filing of a false police report, he may also have to reimburse the taxpayers the cost of the investigation, which could be a sizable amount of money considering the manpower the police dedicated to the high-profile case.

CBS reports that a grand jury is already deliberating, which could very well mean Smollett is indicted.

As of now, though, Smollett is sticking to his story, which seems to be that the two brothers are lying about being hired by Smollett, which can only mean that, for whatever reason, they disguised themselves as Trump supporters and waited outside his condo all night in subzero weather looking for the opportunity to beat on him.

Smollett has hired two high-powered defense attorneys, but already his career is showing signs of hoax-related stress. His role in Empire has been slashed, including an episode that was supposed to revolve around his character that would have included a showy musical number.

The Lance Armstrong comparison is probably as close as you can come to the Smollett Hoax, but it is still lacking. Armstrong was a liar, a cheat, and a ruthless bully, but the damage he did, which should not be dismissed, was confined to his orbit. Smollett is something altogether different.

Had Smollett pulled off his hoax, had his ginned up hate crime been caught on video as he likely planned, it could have been the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” media-hoax all over again. That hoax resulted in the burning down of the predominantly black, working class city of Ferguson and countless acts of violence and murder against innocent police officers. Smollett’s hoax could have caused riots, violence against innocent Trump supporters, who knows what else.

Because I have needed more than my share forgiveness and second chances, I always lean in that direction for others. We all need a path to redemption. Time and circumstance might change my mind, but as of now I believe Smollett needs to be made an example of. Yes, he deserves all the due process our system allows, but if found guilty, he should be given no leniency and his show business career should be over forever.

Smollett’s path to redemption should happen in an Appalachia soup kitchen or a Heartland drug rehabilitation center. He is a bigot who sought publicity and moral authority by defaming and smearing a whole group of people. If he wants redemption, that path is through them, not an apology tour on Late-Night TV.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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