|Smollett, actor on the Fox TV program 'Empire',|
claims he was attacked by Trump supporters
in the middle of the night in Chicago.
Having made a living for nearly a quarter century as an attorney, 17 of those years as a trial lawyer, I have a natural skepticism at stories people tell. Especially when the teller of the tale has something to gain by the listener believing the story to be true. This is not to say I don't believe what people tell me. But my skepticism is activated when an item in the story doesn't match up to something I know to be true. Or there are unexplained holes in the story. Or they say something that contradicts another part of the story.
One of the reasons for my success in trials over the years, I believe, is I made it a policy to never present matters to a jury that I thought they could never believe. On more than one occasion I told clients there was no way I could tell the story they just told me to a jury. It was a way of telling the client "I don't believe you". Only I softened it by saying a jury would never believe it. It was a way for me to either bring the relationship with my client back to reality, or for me to excuse myself from representing them and encourage them to find another attorney. With our ducks lined up, we could have a more honest and productive relationship and reach the best possible outcome for the client. Conversely, on the occasions where we elected to take a case to trial, I made it a point to only try cases where my witnesses' testimony was reasonable and, ideally, where a government's witness had testimony that might be hard for a jury to believe. I was always surprised how attentive and critical jurors are with witnesses. And there becomes a snowball effect where one inconsistency is noted by jurors, they notice more.
So it goes with the daily fake hate crimes reported across America. These hoax crimes have been a thing for the past 10 years or so, but have increased dramatically since the election of President Trump.
Here's a write-up of someone's Top 10 Hoax Crimes of 2017. I haven't seen a Top 10 yet for 2018.
On Monday, Fox TV actor Jussie Smollett reported to Chicago police he had been the victim of a hate crime. The actor (whom I'd never heard of), claimed he was "walking down the street" at 2:00 a.m. in Chicago when he was attacked by a group of men shouting racial and homophobic slurs at him. He claimed they beat him with their fists, poured bleach, or some other caustic substance, all over his face and put a noose around his neck before running away. He went to a local hospital at 2:42 a.m. with the rope still around his neck. He later added to his statement that the men who attacked him screamed at him "This is MAGA country!"
There are no witnesses to the loud, violent attack. Police have been unable to find any private or police security camera video of the incident.
It doesn't take a law degree to be suspicious of this story. Immediately, social media commenters weighed in with many of the same questions I had while reading the story.
What was he doing at 2:00 a.m. in Chicago "walking down the street"? It's a perfectly legal thing to do, but not much is open at that time and one might expect someone to say they were headed home or going to buy a pack of cigarettes or walking to their car to pick up a friend at the airport. "Walking down the street" is a weirdly generic thing to say, even during the daytime.
Many pointed out Chicago is suffering historic cold temperatures. Data from the National Weather Service shows the wind chill at that time well below zero. Commenters from Chicago shared it's been so brutally cold there the streets are mostly deserted, even during the daytime. At 2:00 a.m. it was a deserted, frozen wasteland.
Not only are we to believe this guy was out for a random walk on the deserted, snow-covered, bitterly cold streets of Chicago in the middle of the night, but the only other people out and about were a group of men carrying a noose and a bottle of bleach looking for a black homosexual to assault and taunt with pro-President Trump slogans? Many pointed out such a group of men would have provoked alarm and calls to police prior to their getting lucky and finding the only other person out walking around, who happened to be a black homosexual TV actor. After reviewing hundreds of hours of video from cameras everywhere, police have been unable to find any video of the attack on Smollett or of such a group of men wandering the streets.
Someone asked how the group of men would recognize Smollett or know he's gay? Empire is a black-oriented television show not generally thought to be popular with white, male Trump voters. Besides, even if they might recognize him in some other setting, it was dark out and Smollett was presumably bundled up in winter clothing in the subzero cold.
One commenter asked why anyone would walk around for 42 minutes after the attack and go to the hospital while wearing a noose around their neck?
Another commenter wondered who on earth would claim Chicago, Illinois is "MAGA country"? Chicago is one of the most hardcore liberal places in America, and someone asked if there was even one Trump voter there? The idea that anybody would ever say Chicago, of all places, supports President Trump is ludicrous. But to suggest there's such huge support there that roving gangs of MAGA slogan yelling enforcers physically punish liberal interlopers is laughable.
This attack is reminiscent of the Muslim woman who claimed she was surrounded by white men in MAGA hats who chanted "Trump! Trump! Trump!" as they jumped around her, assaulted her and ripped off her hijab. This and dozens or hundreds more similar cases all claim an innocent victim of anonymous Trump supporters who hate some victim group. There is always a cartoonish element or device to the story to make the attackers seem even more nefarious and the attack even more outrageous. In examples in the story above, it involved a group of men ripping a hijab off a woman's head. Another involved cutting the hijab off a woman with scissors the attacker happened to be walking around with, swastikas being spray painted, a particularly offensive racial epithet yelled, etc. In the case of Smollett, the device in his story is a noose. A vivid image that only seems to make an appearance anymore in hoax hate crimes.
These stories also feature a lack of witnesses and are entirely based on the say-so of the alleged victim. The victim found a note on their car, found graffiti, was alone when they were attacked, were sent a racist letter, etc. The elaborate story always includes a core element that can't be verified in any way.
There's a predictable, boring pattern to every one of these hoax hate crimes. They're all the same. Same elements, same bad guy(s), same use of some device of outrage, same lack of witnesses, same shifting story. Ultimately, they result in the same discovery it's a hoax. Unfortunately, major media runs with the original hoax story and the fact it turned out to be a hoax never gets the same attention.
It's like every one of these hoaxers have a crazy caricature of what they imagine Trump supporters to be, and they all those elements come together in their fake story.
If you google "Hoax Hate Crime map", you'll find an interactive map featuring verified debunked hate crimes, many of which resulted in the perpetrator being charged with a crime. I can't link the page here, but it's an eye-opening compilation of the magnitude of the problem. And reading the news reports in the links to each story shows the pattern mentioned above.