Jussie Smollett may have had all the criminal charges against him for an alleged racial and homophobic attack dropped today, but that doesn’t mean he’s innocent says the state attorney handling the high-profile case.
“I do not believe he is innocent,” First Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told Chicago media on Tuesday of the 16 felony charges the Empire star faced.
Hit with deep criticism and anger from the Windy City’s soon-to-be departing Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police for the decision to end the case, Magats also noted that he thought Smollett was guilty of faking an assault against himself on January 29. The prosecutor asserted that the actor was not exonerated by the decision.
Here is a portion of Magats sit-down with CBS’ Adriana Diaz today:
This is the man who dropped charges against #JessieSmollett. We interviewed him (as did @cbschicago’s @JimWilliamsCBS2). He said dropping charges is common practice in cases like Smollett, but says he believes he’s GUILTY. https://t.co/x07GDA65e2
— Adriana Diaz (@adrianasdiaz) March 26, 2019
As well as seeing the charges dropped, Smollett’s record was expunged and the case permanently sealed. If the actor had been convicted on all 16 counts, he would have faced years in prison.
In another TV interview Tuesday, Magats referenced tragic violence sweeping Chicago as a “stain on the city” and said that “some actor …doing what he did, does not rise to that level.” The state prosecutor insisted that real hate crimes are “vigorously prosecuted.” Not long after Smollett claimed he was attacked in the early morning in late January and drenched in bleach and had a rope wrapped around his neck, the CPD said they were treating the matter as a “potential hate crime.”
Obviously mending political fences, Magats praised the Chicago PD’s probe of the Smollett matter as “nothing short of extraordinary.” As today’s presser with the Mayor made clear, the department isn’t buying it, to put it mildly.
The First Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney took over the media-spotlighted matter after his boss Kim Foxx recused herself from the case in February. In the last week, the union representing the CPD has called for a federal probe into Foxx’s office’s handling of the Smollett case.
Earlier today, as the fallout from the dropped charges grew more intense, Foxx’s office said that “in the last two years, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution.”
“This is not a new or unusual practice,” the prosecutors noted in their own defense. “An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence.”
“We stand behind the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case,” the SAO asserted. “We did not exonerate Mr. Smollet (sic). The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollet’s (sic) agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago. Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped. This outcome was met under the same criteria that would occur for and is available to any defendant with similar circumstances.”
Always and still maintaining his innocence, Smollett completed about 16 hours of community service at Chicago’s Rainbow PUSH on March 23 and March 25, it has been confirmed. The actor who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama primarily worked in the organization’s gift shop and offered advice on working in the film and music industry.
After Smollett was arrested on February 21, Chicago prosecutors read out in court a lengthy series of text messages between Smollett and brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo that outlined a pre-planned attack. Far from the horrific attack Smollett detailed in late January, the texts revealed discussions of money to buy supplies, buying drugs, setting up meetings and ensuring that MAGA hats and chants were part of the assault.
While state charges have now been dropped, Smollett isn’t scot-free yet. A federal investigation of the apparently threatening letter sent to the actor will continue because it’s a different jurisdiction and involves the U.S. mail.
Already dropped from the last two episodes of Empire‘s current and fifth season, there is no word if Smollett will be welcomed back if the show is picked up for a sixth season. However, today broadcaster Fox sent out a statement saying they “are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.”