Chicago chief: I would have let Jussie Smollett off with an apology

Chicago police chief who arrested Jussie Smollett says he would have let him off if he’d apologized and reveals actor’s pristine Subway sandwich gave away that he hadn’t been beaten by MAGA thugs

  • Eddie Johnson was in charge of the Chicago Police Department when Smollett was arrested in February 2019
  • He was fired in December 2019 after being caught drunk and asleep at the wheel; he also had flings with staff
  • Johnson on Friday appeared on NewsNation’s Morning in America to discuss the Smollett verdict 
  • He said that he would not have pursued criminal charges if Smollett had admitted he was lying back in 2019 
  • ‘This wasn’t the crime of the century, he didn’t kill anybody,’ he said in his interview on Friday 
  • Smollett however maintained his innocence despite mounting evidence he had staged the hoax attack 
  • Johnson said the fact he kept the noose on around his neck was a red flag: ‘I don’t think there’s many black people in America with a noose around their neck and wouldn’t immediately take it off’
  • He also found it unbelievable that Smollett’s Subway sandwich was still in tact after the apparent attack 
  • ‘He comes back, gets attacked in a hate crime supposed hate crime… he got up and still had that Subway sandwich with him? That doesn’t happen’ he said
  • Smollett is facing up to 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced; his sentencing date has not been set  

The Chicago Police Chief who arrested Jussie Smollett with lying to cops back in 2019 has revealed he would let him off with an apology and wouldn’t have pursued criminal charges if he’d admitted lying three years ago.  

Eddie Johnson was in charge of the force when Smollett staged the hoax attack. He has since been fired for misconduct, after he was found drunk at the wheel of his parked patrol car, and after it emerged he’d had affairs with female staff. 

Smollett told the police, and later the world, that he was jumped by two white Trump supporters on his way home from Subway in the middle of the night on the coldest night of the year while out buying a sandwich. He was found guilty yesterday of staging the attack to boost his career, paying brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to carry it out. 

Johnson was the first and most vocal to shame Smollett for lying about the fake attack in January 2019, and he was bold enough to arrest him despite the actor claiming the police force was only going after him because he is a black man.  

Johnson, another black man, appeared on NewsNation’s Morning in America on Friday to talk about the verdict – Smollett was found guilty on five counts of lying to police. He revealed that he would not have pursued a prosecution against Smollett or even charged him if the actor had just apologized and admitted that he made it all up. 

‘Let me say this: Myself and Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel were upset at the time that [he] stained our city and you put all that manpower into it but I want people to understand this. This was not the most heinous crime of the century. He didn’t kill anybody. He didn’t blow up a building. 

‘We would have been more than happy with just an apology at the end of all that we uncovered but for some reason, he just wanted to keep going down this road that he was actually a victim,’ he told host Adrienne Bankert on Morning in America. 

Former Chicago Police Department Chief Superintendent Eddie Johnson appeared on Morning in America on NewsNtion 

Johnson said the first thing he thought was suspicious that Smollett had kept the noose around his neck that he claimed his attackers placed on him. He is shown in police bodycam footage back at his apartment on the night in question, showing it to the officers. Johnson said: ‘I don’t think there’s many black people in America with a noose around their neck and wouldn’t immediately take it off’

Johnson said he had to convince other Chicago PD cops to keep treating Smollett as a victim and not a suspect. 

He was immediately suspicious, he said, after he saw the video of Smollett being interviewed in his apartment by police detectives. 

‘I have to be honest, when I first saw the video of him in his apartment with the noose around his neck I was concerned because I don’t think there’s many black people in America with a noose around their neck and wouldn’t immediately take it off.

‘And the way he was so nonchalant handling it gave me cause for concern. But I would not let the police department make him an offender until the evidence just go to be so overwhelming. I stopped the department from calling him an offender for quite a while. 

‘To use a symbol like a noose to promote yourself is just unconscionable to me. 

‘The city of Chicago, we’d been making so much progress at that time in terms of violent crime, it just hurt me that a black person would use a black symbol like that and create a crime where no crime occurred. It was tough. It really was,’ he said. 

Aside from the noose – which prosecutors say Smollett tightened for effect – Johnson said he was also suspicious that the actor managed to preserve his tuna Subway sandwich and bring it home with him, in tact, after being apparently beaten by thugs. 

‘Looking back on it, the part about the noose but what really struck us oddly , I’d been a cop, 30 or 31 years. I’d been in the detective division working homicides, a lot. What really struck us all was the fact that he got attacked on the coldest night of the year during a polar vortex. It was insanely cold. Nobody was out. 

‘But I tell you one thing that really tipped us off that told us there was a problem… if somebody gets jumped like that – let me back up a bit. He went to a Subway sandwich shop at like two in the morning to get a sandwich, OK, that’s fine. 


Smollett is shown in surveillance camera footage from his apartment building walking out of his building before the attack (right) and (left) leaving court yesterday after being found guilty

Johnson famously tore Smollett apart at this February 21 press conference in 2019 where he told the world how the actor had lied 

Johnson on NewsNation on Friday morning. He said he would have let Smollett off with an apology had he just admitted that he lied 

Jussie Smollett is shown in his mugshot from February 21 2019

‘When people get attacked like that, whatever belongings they have out there, they usually leave it until the police can go back with them because they’re afraid.

‘This guy had the sandwich in his hand and it had never been touched. That was a real tipping point to us that something was a miss,’ he said. 

Johnson added that he ‘still made it a point’ to treat Smollett like a victim until the evidence became too overwhelming to ignore. 

‘As the days went on and we started recovering that video, it became fairly obvious that something was amiss. 

‘When we found out about the Osundairo brothers, they had fled the country at the time, they came back to Chicago. I made it a point to not let the detectives get that out there. We wanted them to come back to Chicago. 

‘When we arrested them and brought them in, when I saw the videos of their statements, then I could no longer protect [Smollett]’, he said. 

Johnson tore through Smollett on February 20, 2019, for wasting police resources – namely $100,000 and 26 cops working full-time. 

He said it was ‘painful’ that he’d used the symbolism of a noose to try and boost his own profile, and that there was proof beyond doubt that Smollett had lied. 

The actor, in response, said he never trusted the Chicago Police Department and that’s why he was accused of lying. 

He maintains his innocence and his lawyer has already indicated that he plans to file an appeal. Smollett’s sentencing date has not yet been set. 

He faces up to 20 years behind bars.  

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