In an op-ed for BET, JoJo Smollett, Jussie's older brother, maintains the "Empire" star's innocence and says Jussie has endured a character assassination since the alleged January attack and its aftermath, which saw Jussie charged with lying to police — charges that were later dropped.
JoJo called out the Chicago Police Department's handling of the case and alleged leaks to the media, writing, "Is that all it takes to destroy a lifelong dedication to one’s craft and community? Is it really that easy to convince the world of a person’s guilt? Is that all it takes to turn someone’s life upside down in America? Simply ask yourself this, 'What if Jussie is telling the truth?'"
“After several leaks from ‘unnamed’ police sources and despite a long history of wrongful accusations from the Chicago Police Department, many in the media accepted these unconfirmed reports as fact,” JoJo wrote. “The numerous police leaks, which prompted an internal Chicago Police investigation, convicted Jussie in the court of public opinion before he even entered a courtroom.”
JoJo also denied the Chicago Police Department's allegations that Jussie staged the alleged hate crime in an effort to boost his profile and raise his "Empire" salary, pointing out that Jussie had recently begun directing episodes of "Empire" and owned his own music masters and embarked on a soldout tour — thereby negating the need to use a stunt to up his own compensation from the Fox hit.
In January, Jussie told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was walking home from a Chicago Subway sandwich shop at approximately 2 a.m. The openly gay actor alleged that the masked men beat him, taunted him with homophobic and racial slurs and yelled, "This is MAGA country."
In February, police reportedly determined that Jussie's masked assailants were brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, who trained Jussie and worked with him on "Empire." Authorities also identified the brothers as those on surveillance video purchasing the rope that was reportedly hung around Jussie's neck during the alleged attack.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told press that the Osundairos were cooperating witnesses in his investigation, which had pivoted from investigating a hate crime against Jussie into a case of Jussie allegedly filing a false police report. Jussie was charged with and pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct.
All charges against Jussie were dropped in late March. An internal investigation is reportedly being conducted in the Chicago Police Department. The city of Chicago is suing Jussie to recoup costs related to the investigation into his alleged hoax.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has come under fire for dropping Jussie's charges and has welcomed an investigation into her office. Her chief ethics officer and integrity unit director recently resigned.