The mayor of Chicago believes Jussie Smollett is guilty of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself last year and has vowed to make sure the actor is held accountable.
The former "Empire" star, 37, pleaded not guilty Monday to renewed charges brought against him related to allegedly staging a hate crime. Now, comments Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made this week reveal her office is dedicated to proving he's guilty.
"He needs to face the charges. He committed a crime, and he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we are going to continue to aggressively make him accountable for the wasted police resources that went into investigating what turned out to be a total hoax," Lightfoot told a group of reporters, according to CBS 2 Chicago.
Smollett appeared in a Cook County court Monday, where his lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. She also informed the judge that she has requested the Illinois Supreme Court halt the case.
The 37-year-old previously pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of the charge in the same courthouse last year, weeks before the Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office announced it was dismissing the case.
The former "Empire" actor spoke out this week amid the new indictment.
"It's definitely frustrating," Smollett told TMZ in a rare statement. "It's fight or die at this point."
When asked whether he still claims to be innocent, the actor said: "I don't claim to be innocent, I am innocent."
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019. He said they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, and that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Weeks later, police alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends to help stage the attack.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, telling reporters after the charges were dropped last year that, “I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of.”
Glandian questioned the integrity of the special prosecutor's investigation after the new charges were announced this month. She pointed out that the probe by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed to examine the state's attorney's office's handling of the case, relied on the same detectives who were part of the original investigation despite pending civil claims that Smollett is pursuing against the city and police for malicious prosecution.
Fox News' Sasha Savitsky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.