WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett’s case is capturing the nation’s attention and advocates worry the story could have an impact on true victims of hate crimes.
Chicago police said the actor gave detailed instructions to two brothers who helped him stage a racist, anti-gay attack on himself, including giving them specific slurs to yell, telling them to shout "MAGA country" and pointing out a surveillance camera that he thought would record the beating, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Now, some are already using the case to cast doubt on hate crimes in general.
“It can challenge where people place their trust,” Jazmin Sutherland, a transwoman told FOX 5. “Early in my transition, I remember my life being threatened at a gas station by a gentleman because he felt I didn't have the right to tell him ‘no.’”
Sutherland said she knows what it’s like to not be believed.
“I’m personally a survivor of sexual assault and I did not report my crime when it first happened,” she explained.
Sutherland works at Casa Ruby, a community center for DC's LGBTQ community. She said from what she’s seen, the biggest reason people don’t come forward about being victimized is fear they won’t be believed. Now, Smollett’s case has her and others worried.
“It definitely has a detrimental effect,” she said.
Chicago police stated they were worried about the ripple effect the case could have during a press conference on Thursday.
"My Concern is that hate crimes will not be publicly met with a level of skepticism that previously didn’t happen,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
Most hate crimes are not hoaxes, according to those who have studied the issue.
“Our preliminary data shows that over the past three years, there were 48 falsely reported hate crime,” professor Brian Levin, a national expert on hate crimes explained to FOX 5.
Levin, who heads The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernadino, said what he’s observed is a real and growing problem.
“We just did a study of 30 of the largest American cities, including Washington DC, which is at an all-time high. We estimated there will be approximately 7,700 hate crimes at least when the FBI reports their data later in the year,” Levin stated.
As for Smollett, there are reports that he posted his $100,000 bail and went right to the set of “Empire,” where he apologized to castmates and told them he was innocent.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.