A Brief History
On February 21, 2019, Chicago Police arrested television actor Jussie Smollett on a felony charge of “Disorderly Conduct,” for the action of filing a false police report claiming he had been the victim of hate crimes, including mailed threats and being physically assaulted. Turns out the claims were false, after much media and celebrity handwringing and accusations had been flying around. People now ask, “Why would he do such a thing?” In the past, we discussed “10 Examples of “False Flag” Attacks” and today we delve into the issue again, this time leaning toward the filing of false police reports.
In the case of actor Jussie Smollett, age 36, the alleged perpetrator of the false police reports reportedly mailed to himself threatening and homophobic (he is a Gay Black man) notes made from letters cropped from newspapers and magazines. When that report failed to get much public attention, he allegedly hired 2 Nigerian brothers to pretend to beat him up and threaten him, while shouting racist and homophobic slurs, leaving the supposedly beaten Smollett with a noose around his neck, a grim reminder of a Jim Crow past in America where Black men were the target of homicidal racial hatred. This time, the public took notice and many celebrities, Hollywood types and politicians, rushed to judgement and denounced President Trump for supposedly instigating the atmosphere in which a Gay Black man could be attacked on a city street. The criticism of President Trump was harsh and strident.
Then people started wondering about the alleged attack. In today’s “Me Too” era, we are told to never question a victim that reports an assault, and should take their word for the reported crime right away, but of course this approach has problems of its own, especially if an alleged perpetrator is named, since in the US we have a presumption of innocence for those accused of a crime. Result? Conundrum! Do we automatically take the victim seriously and without question, or do we proceed cautiously and with the caveat that the report may be false? (There does not seem to be an easy, one size fits all answer.)
In Smollett’s case, he reported going out at 2 am for a Subway sandwich, when he was accosted by 2 “white males” in masks and “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) caps. The 2 men allegedly beat up Smollett while taunting and threatening him for being Black and Gay, before leaving him with a rope noose around his neck and throwing liquid bleach on him. The alleged assault that was reported on January 29, 2019, created outrage against conservatives and Trump supporters and could well have resulted in violence toward White people or those wearing “MAGA” hats and the like. (Being a “foodie,” the author completely understands going out for a sandwich at 2 am…)
But then people began to question, “Why would anyone target Jussie Smollett at 2 am, somehow knowing he would be going out just then and the perpetrators being equipped for their attack?” For one thing, Smollett stars on an afro-centric television show (Empire) that would not be the expected fare of racist thugs. Something seemed fishy. Police conducted a thorough investigation and using surveillance video were able to identify the alleged attackers, one of which happened to be the personal trainer of Smollett and both of the brothers were Black Nigerians. Strange indeed! Public response became somewhat muted, with progressives deleting inflammatory social media posts and conservatives smugly saying, “I told you so!” Police first announced the Nigerian brothers were not considered suspects, and then on February 20, 2019, police announced an indictment had been issued for the arrest of Smollett on a felony charge. The actor now faces 3 years in prison for making the false claim under Illinois state law, and possible could face Federal charges under Civil Rights law for filing the false reports of alleged hate crimes. If reports that Smollett instigated the “false flag” attacks on himself for the purpose of furthering his acting career, he will probably fail in that attempt.
We do not know for sure why Smollett filed the allegedly false reports, but we do know that people do file false police reports. Sometimes people file false reports to give themselves cover for a crime they have actually committed, such as the woman that killed her children in 1994, and claimed the dreaded “Black Male” had attacked her family. Other criminals falsely report their car or other vehicle was “stolen” to provide cover for a crime they committed using that vehicle. Fake burglary/robbery scenes are sometimes staged to provide cover for a murder or for insurance fraud. We suspect many people have reported “vandalism” in order to make insurance claims for damage they accidentally/actually caused themselves. Arson, one of the most falsely reported crimes, is often set by the “victim” seeking to profit from insurance or get out of a money losing business. People sometimes file false assault reports against “unknown” perpetrators to cover for domestic violence attacks. (And yes, even men pretend to be the victim of an attack by another man when their wife/girlfriend really beat them up, and yes, I know this first hand.) Maybe even the famous golfer, Tiger Woods?
A young Texas woman reported that a Barack Obama supporter had attacked her and carved a letter “B” on her face (B as in Barack) because the alleged victim is a Republican. Since the “B” was carved backwards, police quickly figured out the “victim” had done this to herself in a mirror! Of course, the fake alleged assailant was a 6 foot 4 inch Black Male. The woman was arrested and charged with filing a false report. Was the woman with the fake story just seeking attention, or was she trying to stir up racial hatred? We do not know, and she did not say. Maybe she was mentally disturbed, who knows?
Of course, sometimes people file false police reports about the police themselves, such as phony claims of being physically or verbally abused by the cops. A case in point is the Michael Brown shooting in 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer shot and killed an African American man, age 18 after the teen had shoplifted cigars and physically pushed and intimidated the store clerk, then attacked the officer when the officer approached the man. Fake “witness” reports that Brown had his hands up when shot and killed resulted in rioting and unrest across the United States, with a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative accusing the cop of killing the harmless young man (media continuously showing a several years old picture of the man as a pre-teen) who was actually 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed 292 pounds! Later investigation, including by the FBI and with sworn testimony before a Grand Jury resulted in the fake “witnesses” recanting their claims that Brown had his hands up when shot. Forensic evidence confirmed the lie about the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Then there was the Duke University lacrosse (2006) team accused of raping a stripper, with the lives of the young men almost ruined by the outraged media furor against them. No apologies from the media later when the Duke men were exonerated. (Of course.) Even the team coach lost his job for supporting his players! School officials that immediately assumed the men were guilty and sold the team down the river have never acknowledged their failure to respect due process, even though they ruined the college careers of these fine young men. Nancy Grace, television legal commentator was particularly inflammatory about the case, condemning the men, and she should know better, having been a prosecutor herself. Upon the determination that the men were innocent, Grace took time off from TV and avoided being humiliated for her wrongful invective. Compounding the problem with the false report by the alleged rape victim, the prosecutor in the case had exculpatory information and kept it from the defense, instead, making a serious effort to convict innocent men! In fact, prosecutor Mike Nifong was disbarred for his wrongful persecution/prosecution of the lacrosse players. False police reports can have serious, even deadly after effects, potentially ruining lives and often without commensurate ramifications for the person leveling the false claims. In this case, the false accuser, Crystal Mangum, not only was not charged with a crime, she graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Police Psychology 2 years later!!! Not bizarre enough? In 2013 Crystal Mangum was sentenced to 14-18 years in prison for a Second Degree Murder conviction after stabbing her boyfriend to death.
Questions for Students (and others): Do you have any personal experience or knowledge of someone filing a false police report? Should people found to have falsely accused someone of a crime be charged with a crime punishable by at least the punishment of the alleged crime? Should people that file unfounded reports against the police be charged with a crime?
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For more information, please see…
Cohan, William. The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities. Scribner, 2014.
Jackson, Thomas. Policing Ferguson, Policing America: What Really Happened―and What the Country Can Learn from It. Skyhorse, 2017.
Rekers, George. Susan Smith: Victim or Murderer. Glenbridge Pub Ltd, 1995.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Ben P L from Provo, USA of Ashly Williams and Jussie Smollett performing at LoveLoud 2018, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Ben P L at https://flickr.com/photos/88663091@N04/44222383172. It was reviewed on by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.