Jussie Smollett maintained his innocence in an impassioned interview ahead of his court appearance later today
The actor, 38, who is accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself calls the case ‘frustrating’ and said he does not think the case will be finished soon.
Yesterday speaking for the first time since February 2019, in an interview with author and academic Marc Lamont Hill, 41, the former Empire star revealed his lawyers filed a motion against his indictment, which will be reviewed by a judge later today.
‘It’s been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue,’ he said about publicly commenting on the case. ‘I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don’t really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. … It’s so much bigger than me.’
Smollett, an openly gay Black actor, was originally indicted in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him on January 29, 2019, while also making racist and homophobic slurs.
He pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police about the incident, which authorities later claimed he had staged with two acquaintances to draw attention to himself.
Jussie Smollett denied faking a race attack in his first sit-down interview since 2019 ahead of appearing in court today
Mr Smollett said his lawyers filed a motion against his indictment, which will be reviewed by a judge later today, but he does not think the city of Chicago will ‘let this go’
These were later dropped by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney.
In February Smollett pleaded not guilty to a six-count indictment which revived the disorderly conduct allegations previously filed and then dropped in the case.
Smollett has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Speaking on Mr Lamont’s Instagram, he said: ‘I’m going to give it up to God, but if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think that… they’re not going to let this go.
‘There is an example being made and the sad thing is there is an example being made of someone who did not do what they are accused of.
‘On one hand, when I step back, I see how [Chicago Police] played the narrative, the way that they served it to the people. That it was intentionally created to make people doubt from the very beginning.
‘From the very, very beginning, it was made to seem that I was lying about something or everything. But at the same time, I’m not really living for the people who don’t believe.’
The city of Chicago have requested that the FBI hand over records of their own probe into Mr Smollett’s case.
Asked how he was feeling, the actor responded saying the question ‘baffles’ him at the moment.
He said: ‘Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I’m so angry. Other times I wake up and if I squint really hard, I can see the silver lining.
‘The one thing I always wake up [and think] no matter how I feel is that this is an opportunity to have a real conservation in our own communities about truth.
‘The thing that really gets me is the fact that there are black and brown women and men behind bars for things they did not do.
‘I am certainly well informed about the plight of us. What happened in these last two years, it has humbled me in a way that nobody could possibly understand.’
Mr Smollett was fired from Fox’s hit series Empire as a result of the scandal. He is pictured fourth from right with his co-stars in 2015 – Trai Byers, Taraji P Henson, Terrence Howard and Bryshere Y. Gray
The saga around Jussie Smollett began on January 30, 2019, when it emerged he claimed he had been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack.
At the time, it seemed he had been walking home from Subway in the middle of the night after returning home late on a delayed flight when he was approached.
He told police afterwards his attackers identified him from the show he was on, Empire, and called him both the N-word and ‘f****t’.
He said they beat him, poured bleach on him then put a noose around his neck.
Mr Smollett went back to his apartment where his friend, Frank Gaston, was. It was Gaston who insisted they call police.
Jussie Smollett arrives at Cook County courthouse in February with his brother, Jocqui (left), Jojo (far left) and Jake (right) to face six felony counts of lying to police
When officers arrived, the actor refused to hand over his phone. He went to the hospital to be checked over but had no major injuries.
The Chicago Police Department vowed to investigate the incident with all its might, and celebrities around the world rushed to share their support of Smollett.
But as the police investigation progressed, leaks began from within the police department that all may not have been as it seemed.
As the controversy grew, Smollett – determined to make his case – went on Good Morning America in February 2019, where he cried and insisted he was telling the truth.
By then, Chicago PD had released grainy surveillance camera footage of two men walking near the scene of the incident itself which was among the only part of his journey not captured on Chicago’s vast network of security cameras that night.
Smollett unequivocally identified the two men in the grainy footage as his attackers. Neither their faces nor skin color could be made out in it.
Unbeknownst to him while he was conducting his GMA interview, the Chicago PD was building a case against him.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT TIMELINE
January 29: The alleged ‘hoax’ attack outside Smollett’s apartment in Chicago occurs.
January 30: A wave of public sympathy rushes over Smollett, until then a relatively unknown actor
February 14: After a series of leaks from the Chicago PD, Smollett goes on Good Morning America to plead his case.
Unbeknownst to him, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo are being interviewed by police after returning from Nigeria.
February 20: Smollett is arrested and accused of lying to police.
He is bailed out on a $10,000 cash bond.
March 7: Grand jury indicted Smollett
March 26: Charges dropped
April 11: Chicago sues Smollett for $130,000 – the cost of the investigation
August: Dan Webb is appointed special prosecutor
November: Smollett counter-sues, alleging malicious prosecution
February 11, 2020: Reports emerge that Dan Webb has charged Smollett
They had identified the people in the video as the Osundairo brothers and had backed-up their belief by tracking the pair’s movements in the days and hours both before and after the incident.
Smollett was eventually arrested and charged with suspicion of lying to police. The brothers flew to Nigeria within hours of the January 29 incident and missed the media storm which followed
When they landed back in the US, police investigators were waiting to question them.
After hours of secret interviews, they told cops that Smollett had paid them to carry out the attack as part of an elaborate hoax. Smollett was then arrested.
In an extraordinary press conference afterwards, then police chief Eddie Gallagher accused him of inflaming race relations in Chicago and of wasting police time.
He said that Smollett had tried to leverage the ‘attack’ to get his bosses at Empire to pay him more.
Despite police outrage, prosecutor Kim Foxx was quiet.
The case then went to a grand jury which returned a stunning, 16-felony indictment that would have put Smollett behind bars for more than 50 years if he had been convicted.
By then, Foxx had informally recused herself from the case.
Her conflict of interest was that in the early days of the police investigation, she intervened at the request of Smollett’s family and their friend – Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen – who wanted the FBI to take over the police investigation.
They said they were worried by the number of leaks that had come from the Chicago PD and asked Foxx to help. She said she would try.
After the grand jury indictment, the case stalled for a few weeks.
Then, in March, Foxx’s deputy Joseph Magats – who had taken over – announced the decision that the charges against Smollett had been dropped.
Foxx had intervened again, it emerged, and pointed to what they called ‘alternative prosecution’ whereby Smollett, a first-time offender, was let off with a $10,000 bail forfeiture and community service.
There was outrage and calls for Foxx to be investigated herself for prosecutorial misconduct.
As judges and special prosecutors for that task were tossed around, the city came out swinging in civil court.
In March last year, Foxx´s office surprised and angered many in Chicago by dropping charges that accused the former ‘Empire’ actor of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself
They sued Smollett, asking him to reimburse them for all the money they said they’d wasted investigating what they believed were bogus claims.
Smollett counter-sued, accusing the city and Eddie Gallagher of malicious prosecution.
He lost his job on Empire and became a pariah in the showbiz world he was allegedly trying to ascend through.
Webb was appointed in August to investigate why Foxx’s office had dropped the charges.
He himself faced criticism and claims of another conflict of interest when it emerged he had donated $1,000 to Foxx’s re-election campaign once.