Good morning, Chicago.
Jussie Smollett’s star was rising fast three years ago, with his hit show “Empire” providing him groundbreaking opportunities to portray a gay, Black entertainer in a country still struggling with issues of race and sexuality. All that began crashing down in January 2019, when Smollett reported he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago, only to later be charged with making the whole thing up.
On Thursday, a Cook County jury completed Smollett’s downfall, convicting the actor on five out of six felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about the purported attack, marking a dramatic end to a story that has captivated Chicago and made worldwide headlines.
— Megan Crepeau and Jason Meisner
Here are the top stories you need to know to start your day.
Scolding, swearing, sarcasm: Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s texts reveal her combative dealings with aldermen
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s brusque style is no secret. But a trove of text messages, recently obtained by the Tribune, further reveals the extent to which the mayor — who campaigned as a reformer aiming to unite the city — at times resorts to name-calling and shaming of her perceived enemies as she governs the city.
The Tribune obtained more than 2½ years of Lightfoot’s text messages with aldermen through a series of Freedom of Information Act requests — which her staff failed to comply with until the state attorney general admonished them and the Tribune threatened a lawsuit.
Judge calls grandfather’s Chinatown slaying during 22-bullet barrage ‘an execution,’ orders no bail for man charged
A beloved 71-year-old grandfather out for a walk in Chinatown was gunned down by a man who shot at him 22 times, including as he lay helpless on the ground, according to prosecutors, leaving his family demanding justice.
“This was an execution,” said Cook County Judge Maryam Ahmad before denying bail for Alphonso Joyner during a hearing Thursday.
As CTA ridership plummeted to a fraction of its normal levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, the transit agency touted its level of service, writing in a budget recommendation made public in October that it was “the only major U.S. transit agency that did not reduce or cut back on service.”
But the agency ran far fewer of its scheduled train trips on some lines during the pandemic than it did in the early months of 2020, a Tribune analysis of CTA data shows.
Chicago’s last farm — now also a high school — celebrates 175 years: ‘An important thing to maintain’
The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences is celebrating the 175th anniversary of the farm, which has survived Chicago Public Schools financial woes, brutal winters and deadly pandemics.
Principal William Hook said the land has not “fundamentally changed” since 1846, though the community surrounding it certainly has.
This was a year of forced and increasingly rickety movie optimism, Tribune critic Michael Phillips writes: Those of us with a congenital filmgoing habit, thwarted or at least discouraged by COVID, kept an eye on each new promise of hope on a big screen.
These are the 10 screen experiences he appreciated the most this year.