Should actor Jussie Smollett face justice for allegedly orchestrating a hate crime against himself in order to bolster the narrative that America remains a dangerous place for minorities in the age of Trump? That's the question many are asking as mounting evidence points to a hoax.
One Los Angeles-based civil rights activist believes Smollett's alleged hoax is endangering the very community he is a part of — which is why he should be arrested and prosecuted.
What did the activist say?
"Today, Project Islamic HOPE is calling upon the arrest and criminal prosecution of 'Empire' star and actor Jussie Smollett. We believe Jussie Smollett lied about being the victim of a hate crime and being assaulted, and for us, it's a slap in the face," Najee Ali said Sunday.
Ali went on to say:
Jussie Smollett put people's lives at risk and could have created a situation that was much more damaging for those who are African American and for those who do identify with the LGBTQ community. We have many members of the black community and the LGBT community who have been the victims of racism and hate crimes, so for Smollett to say that he was a victim of racism and hate crime — and we believe that is a lie — certainly is an injustice to those true victims of racism and hate crimes.
"Jussie Smollett must be brought to justice for lying," Ali declared, adding that Smollett's "campaign of lies" eroded the "benefit of the doubt" he was given when he first claimed he was attacked.
Ali pointed out that one, among the many numerous problems with orchestrating a hate crime hoax, is that "more extreme" members of the communities Smollett belongs to could have retaliated against those Smollett accused of attacking him, namely white supporters of President Donald Trump.
"Smollett could have created a race war!" Ali exclaimed.
Ali said that Smollett is due forgiveness if he apologies for lying. However, he emphasized that "at the end of the day," Smollett "must be held accountable" and brought to justice because he "put many lives in danger."
Could Smollett face jail time?
While Chicago detectives have not yet confirmed Smollett orchestrated the attack against himself, new evidence points to a hoax. While lying is not a crime, Smollett filed a police report testifying to his claims. If it is confirmed Smollett lied, he could be charged with filing a false police report.
Under Illinois criminal code, filing a false police report is considered a disorderly conduct offense chargeable by a Class 4 felony. In Illinois, Class 4 felonies carry a one- to three-year prison sentence.
Meanwhile, there is the question of the racist letter Smollett received one week before the alleged Jan. 29 attack containing a white powered substance, which turned out to be aspirin. According to WBBM-TV, Smollett may have staged the attack because the letter did not generate the response he thought it should have.
It's not clear who sent the letter, although Chicago police collected evidence from the apartment of two Nigerian brothers who allegedly helped Smollett orchestrate his hoax that may indicate the letter was also a hoax.
The FBI is handling the investigation into the letter, WBBM reported.