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Four Legal Lessons Learned by Jussie Smollett’s Mistakes

Jussie Smollett strutted into court today. A a criminal defense attorney, I have learned something very important about people who are charged with crimes – they aren’t very smart, or attentive to details.  That terrifies me.  What are the intelligent, meticulous criminals out there are getting away with. Yikes!

Case-on-point – Jussie Smollett. From the initial reports, things seemed…a little too unbelievable. For me, the noose was a red flag.  Again… criminals are not very smart. The symbolism of a noose isn’t something that a random-actor is going to have in their back pocket.  As time went on, Chicago Police, despite having one of the most sophisticated video surveillance systems in the world, couldn’t find anything. More red flags. And then there was the allegation that “acid,” no “bleach” thrown on his face, but there was one scratch instead.

Sadly, teenage girls in the juvenile court system that I work in tend to use bleach to deform their romantic rivals faces.  Jussie’s face looked just fine.

Lo and behold, he faked it for the worst reasons.  I can’t even go into the selfishness that one must possess to do this, so let’s just talk about how dumb this totally unnecessary crime was.

Jussie Smollett is innocent until proven guilty (or until he enters a plea agreement), but if I can tell you that his attorneys are probably having a conversation like this…

JS: ” I’m innocent.”

Attorney:  “I hear what you are saying, and you are entitled to make the government prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, but the admissible evidence would lead a reasonable juror to believe that you committed this crime, which means you are going to be found guilty.”

[Jussie fires attorney.]


At least that’s what I would tell him. I have a feeling Mr. Smollett may go through a few defense attorneys before this is all over.  He is not going to want to hear what a good lawyer has to say, and that is, “you have no defense.”

Why? Because you, sir asked to be thoroughly investigated by a very large law enforcement agency.  And, they did the damn thing. which brings me to Mr. Smollett’s mistakes.

(1) Don’t write checks.

Did you know that your bank records are protected private information? In fact, the police can easily get these records with a simple subpoena. The number one rule of crime solving is “follow the money” and that’s exactly what police do.  Jussie Smollett wrote checks to the people who were to stage the attack.  Who uses checks anymore?

(2) Don’t meet/text/email/call/write letters to your accomplices immediately before, during or after your crime.

Speaking of subpoenas, your phone records aren’t private either (although your actual cellphone is protected).  And as a general rule of thumb, you should never put anything in writing.  And of course, you have to be mindful of those pesky closed-circuit televisions, license plate readers and other recording devices that tend to catch meetings on camera.  So any in-person, phone or written communications are a big no-no as they are traceable.

(3) Don’t work with your known associates.

It’s helpful if you don’t know people involved in a crime.  Real names are discouraged.  People will discover your personal relationships quickly when and if you are investigated. Eventually relationships change, and no one wants to go to jail. That’s how people “flip,” and whoever talks first gets the deal. Here, Jussie was “friends” with one of these guys and he worked on Empire. The second police found them, they sang like birds, and they aren’t facing felonies.

(5) Don’t make national news.

Racism. Hate. Homophobia. Celebrity. This story was ripe for national attention. I’ve seen Blackkklansman. I know that there are racist a-holes in this country who love President Trump’s MAGA agenda. But your lies then come under the scrutiny of vocal members of this country that also like President Trump, and aren’t white supremacists.  More eyes = more opportunity to be found out.

(4) Don’t give an interview.

That’s what we call “Impeachment Evidence.”

In closing, let me just say this:  I am not black and I am not a member of the LGBTQ community, but I find Smollett’s actions indefensible. He hijacked the very real pain and suffering that people like him (black and/or gay) experience. Empathy and restitution for true victims are now set-back by his actions.  So, it blows my mind that people are hesitant to believe the allegations made. If this is true, Jussie Smollett does not deserve the benefit of the race card.  Just because you are a black and/or gay doesn’t mean you aren’t also a selfish jerk who wants to use the sad history of race and LGBTQ relations in this country for your benefit. He needs to be held accountable not only by the criminal justice courts, but also in the Court of Public Opinion.


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Jack Rogers
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