A Separate Justice,Jussie Smollett, ?and the American Moral Mosaic

It has almost become a cliche to observe that we have a sliding scale of justice in America, “The Land of the Free.” According to many studies, nearly 92% of the public believes that the criminal justice system needs fixing. The challenge comes as to which aspects truly need repair, which groups the uneven application of justice favors, and what can be done to rectify it.

It has almost become a cliche to observe that we have a sliding scale of justice in America, “The Land of the Free.” According to many studies, nearly 92% of the public believes that the criminal justice system needs fixing. The challenge comes as to which aspects truly need repair, which groups the uneven application of justice favors, and what can be done to rectify it.

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A Separate Justice,Jussie Smollett and the American Moral Mosaic

-By Robert Joseph Ahola

It has almost become a cliche to observe that we have a sliding scale of justice in America, “The Land of the Free.” According to many studies, nearly 92% of the public believes that the criminal justice system needs fixing. The challenge comes as to which aspects truly need repair, which groups the uneven application of justice favors, and what can be done to rectify it.

            As of 2018, 71% of all Americans (including 58% of all Republicans) believed the prison population in America needed an exponential reduction. 84% believed that the mentally disabled should be placed therapy environments instead of behind bars. 72% of all Americans, including 68% of all Republicans, thought that lengthy prison sentences were counterproductive. And no bill met with greater approval than the bipartisan HR-3356 “Prison Reform Bill” initiated by the Trump administration and passed with virtual unanimity by both Houses of Congress, bill that emphasized education-rehabilitation, treatment for drug dependency and early release for non-violent crimes.

            Still, the struggle for that elusive quality of Equal Justice Under The Law continues. Over 66% of all Americans acknowledge that application of criminal punishment is far more permissive for Caucasians than people of color. And while 69% of those surveyed believe that the rich and famous have a far better chance at justice than the poor and disenfranchised, there are almost weekly examples that this perception too may be flawed and open for debate.

            A classic contribution to the paradox occurred a few days ago on a busy news day when three contrasting events came to pass in the same span of 24 hours, illustrating a sliding scale of justice that defines the practical application of the law in this country.

            In the first event, porn star advocate and erstwhile presidential candidate Michael Avenatti got charged by the Southern District of New York for money laundering and attempting to extort Nike for millions in return for not revealing damaging information about the sneaker/sports-ware giant (as if Nike needed any more bad pub).

            He was joined in the headlines by self-proclaimed gay Empire actor (and person of color) Jussie Smollett. To everyone’s surprise, shock, and (for some) dismay, Smollett apparently dodged a bullet when his 15-count indictment,for his hate crime hoax was dropped by Cook County District Attorney and the City of Chicago, all with a paucity of explanation.

            Last week, the running joke in political circles was that Avenatti (who announced his presidential musings early on) had possibly found the perfect running mate in Smollett. The racial and gender balance made for an ideal twofer. Both men had a very loose command of the truth, and both had proven to be extremely creative in their attempts to manipulate the law and seduce others into believing their alternate morality was a new way of righting the wrongs of an imbalanced society.

            Of course, some of this rough humor was a rather obtuse slam at the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue whose morality has been held up to question for two years and two months by everyone from Chris Cuomo to Robert De Niro, all while the Mueller investigation rolled on. But now that Robert Mueller has turned in his report to the US AG with a declaration of “no apparent collusion” our POTUS too has been vindicated. And it has been shown yet again that The Donald, though he may have his moments of expedient ethics, at least knows how to play inside the lines that separate that which is immoral from that which is illegal. Then again that’s what billionaire moguls with layers of lawyers can do.

           And whether you love him or hate him,or you are somewhere in between,one has to acknowledge that no man who ever served as President of the United States has had to withstand the onslaught of criminal accusation and character assassination,up to and including treason,virtually from the time he was sworn into office. From the outset Trump has counter punched with bravado and, one might even say, courage and now looks pretty strong coming out the other side of it.

            On the other hand, Avenatti, Trump’s erstwhile tormentor and Democrat party hopeful, remains the textbook example of just how far we’ve lowered the bar for what we perceive to be a respectable public figure and potential political power. Here is a low end litigator whose only professional cred up to six months ago involved convincing Stormy Daniels to violate her NDA and hush money payments for the promise of greater benefit, public sympathy and a renewed popularity spike for her erotic brand, all of which has happened. He followed that by drudging up a coven of debunked witnesses to Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged college depredations and sexual impropriety.  Now he finds himself on the wrong end of an attempted Nike hush money shakedown and defrauding a client out of a legal settlement that may end up in his own disbarment and prison.

           Still Avenatti deemed it appropriate to take the microphone last week and proclaim his vindication along with his lifetime devotion to being, A Champion of the Underdog! Unfortunately one of his underdogs turned out to be his sub-rosa counseling of Seagram liquor heiress Clare Bronfman who is being charged in NYC this week for money laundering and being a key functionary in the NXIVM sex-cult run and pyramid scheme. Not satisfied with conning wealthy investors into a pyramid scam, NXIVM, started by motivational guru Keith Raniere in 1998, also offered self-awareness training to aspiring actresses who soon found themselves falling victim to mind control in a sex-slavery ring (and no you can not make this stuff up) where they were branded and used as playthings for several rich investors. So yes, Mary Jane! There is such a thing as sexual slavery in America.  These moral depredations go on, as does so much under our very eyes. And there is a reasonable chance that most of these people will never go to jail, or will otherwise buy their way out with hefty fines and probation.

            Meanwhile, this sort of closes the loop and sends us back to Jussie Smollett whose little hate crime hoax seems almost like a misdemeanor by comparison. Not that it was. It was a nasty piece of race-baiting where Smollett accused two mythical white supremacist, MAGA hat wearing, racists of sending him threats and later beating him and tying him up. As everyone knows by now, the Aryan Nation haters turned out to be two Nigerian immigrant brothers who needed some walking around money and were paid by Smollett to do the deed, a clumsy bit of contrivance most of which was caught on tape.

            Finally arraigned by the Chicago Police Department for his elaborate scam, Smollett, who apparently pulled the caper because he felt undervalued at his $130 K, an episode gig with FOX’s Empire, has despite the preponderance of evidence maintained his innocence. And naturally, since the charges were dropped pending forfeiture of bail, Jussie immediately took to the airwaves to declare himself a lifelong bastion of moral integrity and perpetual victim of discrimination.

            Now Jussie is free to walk away and try to repair his utterly demolished acting career at Empire, and to attend the BET Awards where he will be an honored nominee for “Best Supporting Actor” in a dramatic television series.

            None of this set very well with outgoing Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel who was apparently gobsmacked at Smollett’s release and outraged at the Cook County DA’s office for not pursuing the case, a bit of high dudgeon perhaps understandable but not very well researched.

            This is the same Rahm Emmanuel who, while in office, pulled the rug out from under the Chicago Police, sending them off for sensitivity training while the Gangs of Chicago and its 658 kill ratio for 2018 have enabled the Windy City to keep its title as the “Murder Capital of America” four about 18 years in a row. In fact, other than Emanuel’s fatherly lectures about gang violence being the offshoot of a lack of family guidance and moral guidance in the home, Chicago’s three major armed gangs still enjoy a burgeoning membership of around 110,000 members, a figure that boasts more partisans than ISIS and The Taliban combined.

            Granted much of that gang membership is social, and not all members are armed enforcers. Still, it underscores the double standard that goes on in the enforcement of our laws at so many levels. That in turn contributes to the cynical belief by the average American today that the four words etched over the entrance of the US Supreme Court Building “Equal Justice Under the Law” is more of an aspiration and a goal than it is a reality. And perhaps that’s as it should be.

            In truth we, the United States of America, have formed a Republic comprised of the confederation of 50 separate autonomous operating entities, each with its own established laws,all held together by an operating model in the US Constitution and The Bill of Rights. As such, the American system of justice is an ongoing experiment and an uneven application of the law that is constantly undergoing revisions, tweaks, challenges and protests.

            It is one nation of laws overseeing, 50 independent governing bodies who are often at odds with one another as to their own interpretations of justice. Examples are certainly easy enough to find: With 11 states now legalizing marijuana use at all levels, you can smoke a joint on the streets of Boulder, Colorado and get six-months in jail and a $2000 fine for doing the same thing in Austin, Texas.  With 13 states still banning same-sex marriage, a lesbian couple in Tennessee (where it is prohibited) can drive across the border to North Carolina and get married 24 hours later. Vermont and Wyoming, with two of the most permissive gun laws in America, rank number 8 and number 2 in lowest crime rates. While Maryland, with the number 3 most restrictive gun laws in the USA also has in Baltimore the nation’s number 3 most violent city. And California, with the most restrictive gun laws, also has 4 of America’s 25 most dangerous cities in which to live.

            California (recently nicknamed Californizuela due to its unraveling social experiment) is a classic example of permissive criminal laws gone completely awry. As such, it has become the poster child for the imminent catastrophe of one-party rule. The most heavily taxed state in the union with a crumbling infrastructure and a school system ranked 49th out of 50, California has in the last 6 years issued two Propositions,47 and 57,that have brought the state a spike in the crime rate of nearly 18%. Prop 57 (sponsored by freshman Senator Kamala Harris) is sloppy bit of legislation offering an early release for thousands of non-violent prisoners that just happens to include animal torturers, spousal abusers and pedophiles. Prop 47 is a new lifting of the felony ceiling from $99 to $950, thus allowing someone to make off with a Samsung television and an Acer laptop form a local Best Buy and (if caught) only be slapped with a fine and sent home. This has made California a safe haven and Sanctuary State for petty criminals everywhere, while prompting a mass Exodus of senior citizens and Baby Boomers to nearby states of Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Arizona.

            This is being denied by Sacramento who claims the total crime rate has actually lowered. Of course it has, because if a crime is no longer reported as such, it no longer exists. But that’s California’s karma, and it isn’t getting any better. Just try stepping around the fecal matter left behind by the 55 thousand homeless in downtown LA, and get a sniff of what happens when Democracy starts to fall apart in the dry rot of permissive governance. 

            The point in all this is twofold. First that equal justice in America is, and always will be, a work in progress. It always will be because there is no equanimity from state to state. It is, in its way, a splendid mosaic of individual expression that is intrinsic to our national charter. So in its huge, heterogeneous, multicultural way, American democracy and the application of its laws is a glorious ongoing endeavor to make perfect the imperfect application of our laws. There are good states, and there are bad states. And one is always at choice to find the moral compass of governance that suits their personal character.

            Ronald Reagan once prophetically proclaimed, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” He also recognized that would mean constant vigilance in our states, our national government and our Supreme Court in the application of our laws.

            And it is that very individual application of our laws that brings us back to Jussie Smollett and his little “hate-crime” hoax. And despite the outburst of outrage (and we all felt it for a while) this was, by every technical application of the laws of Cook County,a victimless crime. No money was taken, no individual other than Smollett’s fading reputation was harmed. He is being sued by the city of Chicago for the ironic amount of $130,000 for their out-of-pocket costs for the investigation.

            Jussie Smollett’s career is in shambles. It will never recover. That is his punishment. And in fact, in other states from New York to North Carolina, similar bogus accusers have almost never served “time” for transgressions that were far more damaging to those against whom they bore false witness. Al Sharpton’s pet project, Tawana Brawley, who blatantly accused a group of white men of rape and then admitted she lied, was fined $430,000 and paid about 1% of it. Stripper, Crystal Magnum, who falsely accused six Duke Lacrosse players of kidnap and rape, served a suspended sentence for her lies, and later went to jail in 2016 for murdering her boyfriend. Wanetta Gibson who cried rape against All-American high school football player Brian Banks, then collected $1.5 million from their high school, Long Beach Polytechnic while sending off Banks to five years in prison, five years later admitted she made it all up. By then Bank’s career was ruined and Gibson’s family had run through all the money. Ordered to pay back $2.6 million in restitution, Wanetta filed for bankruptcy and is now living on welfare.

            In fact Smollett and his “cry wolf” predecessors should be glad they don’t live in China where such crimes for fraud and extortion are punishable by death.

            Then again, Confucius was right when he said: Comparisons are odious. And it’s hard to press the theory in America, the Land of the Free, that justice is in peril, when all one has to do is look around at the civil rights of other key nations of the world,and their own applications of Equal Justice Under The Law,and not be horrified.

            Just last week, the Sultan of Brunei wrote into law a condemnation of all expressions of LGBTQ (alphabet soup), making gender blending in all its forms a moral outrage punishable by death. They’re still cutting off the hands of shoplifters in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Mauritania still endorses the institution of slavery. And it wasn’t that long ago when the two girls from the rock group Pussy Riot (who didn’t flee the country) finally got out of the clink for belting out songs in a Moscow Cathedral concert for Vladimir Putin to go.

            Yes, there is equal justice under the law in these arcane empires as well but very little freedom. And justice without freedom, and a diligent application of compassion, is a weapon against us all.

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