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In rare interview, Jussie Smollett speaks out about alleged attack

Actor Jussie Smollett smiles and waves to supporters

Actor Jussie Smollett smiles and waves to supporters before leaving Cook County Court in March 26, 2019. Credit: AP / Paul Beaty

In his first interview since the labyrinthine legal case against him began in January 2019, singer-actor Jussie Smollett staunchly defended himself against claims that he had staged a hate-crime attack against himself.

"It's been beyond frustrating … to not be able to say all of the things that you want to say, to not be able to yell from the rooftop," the former "Empire" cast member, 38, told journalist and Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill in an Instagram video Wednesday. "I'm still taking the advice of my attorneys … but I just don't really see honestly what staying quiet has really done. Where it has gotten me?"

Following a racially charged attack on Smollett in Chicago in January 2019, a police investigation led to his being charged the following month with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. The charge was dropped a month later, but after a public backlash, the city of Chicago filed a civil suit against him to recoup the cost of police overtime in the case. Smollett countersued. In February 2020, he was indicted again for disorderly conduct. Smollett has pleaded not guilty and is seeking to have the indictment overturned.

"They won't let it go," said Smollett, who was born in California but lived in Elmhurst, Queens, from ages 2 to about 7. He added, "There is an example being made. And the sad part is that there's an example being made of someone that did not do what they're being accused of.”

He argued that prosecutors and police are incentivized not for "solving a case based on truth, based on fact, but [for] in fact winning the case. So if your … main motivation is to win a case, well, then, you're going to win at any cost. Which means that you're willing to throw people under the bus that don't deserve to [be], you're willing to coax people into lying about things and saying things happened that did not happen, you're able to switch a narrative and sell a narrative based on the agenda that you're trying to sell. And that is what has happened for the last almost two years to me, but it's what's been happening for far much longer to people all over this nation."

He said that in addition to surveillance video leading up to the attack, there are "also two other witnesses that saw white men, saw exactly what I say that I saw." It remains unclear why the video ends before the attack, for which Smollett was treated at a hospital and released. "I certainly didn't have power to cut the tape, so who cut it?"

Marveling at "the amount of threats that I have received … that my family, that my mother has received," Smollett said of his life and career, "People's history should mean something. And I do think that if you look at all of the things that were happening for me, and all of the opportunities, and all of the money … that I have lost at this point, if in fact what they said was true, the smart thing to do would be to admit that, because at least there would be a place to work back from."

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