“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s brother, JoJo, rushed to his defense in an article for BET over the weekend, proclaiming his brother’s complete innocence in an alleged hoax hate crime, and claiming that Jussie Smollett still suffers from “night terrors” stemming from his January attack.
The article, entitled “What if Jussie is telling the truth?” sets out a case attempting to refute claims by the Chicago Police Department, Chicago city government, and others that Smollett orchestrated a racist and homophobic attack that took place in the early morning hours of January 29, in the tony Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville, near downtown.
Smollett claims that he was approached by two men who called him racial and homophobic slurs, assaulted and battered him, then threw a rope around his neck and poured an unidentified substance on his clothing. A subsequent CPD investigation turned up evidence that Smollett may have paid two acquaintances to conduct the attack because Smollett felt he wasn’t getting enough attention or respect from his “Empire” bosses.
Although Smollett was initially charged with 17 counts related to the attack — most for allegedly filing a false police report — the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dropped the charges in a “plea deal” that had Smollett forfeiting a $10,000 bond and performing 16 hours of community service, but not admitting fault. Smollett claims he was exonerated in the deal; the State’s Attorney says he was not.
The Smollett case has given way to a number of inquiries into the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and how it handles “non-violent” offenders, but JoJo Smollett says it should also force an investigation into the Chicago Police Department, which he claims bungled the case.
JoJo Smollett claims that the police department leaked important information to the press, compromising Jussie’s case, and that as a result, “this entire process quickly devolved from a focus on him as a victim of assault, to him being falsely accused and held responsible for a crime that was perpetrated against him.”
He claims police refused to show Jussie evidence compiled against him, that the Osundairo brothers were compromised by police officials, and that the CPD conducted a “campaign” against Jussie that resulted in an “online bandwagon” condemning Smollett, and connects Jussie’s case to ongoing civil rights movements in America.
We live in a country that promises liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness. Jussie deserves those civil guarantees as much as everyone else. Our sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming individuals, progressive and LGBTQ communities, know very well that being wrongfully accused happens far too often. Make no mistake. I know with all my heart that plenty of people in his life are far worse off. I am definitely not asking you to feel sorry for my brother. He would never allow that. He still carries a humility, grace and knows he walks in more rarified air than so many people who have been wrongly accused and paying a heavy price.
Perhaps most importantly, JoJo claims that his brother has ongoing issues from the January 29 attack, including night terrors,in which he presumably relives the horror of being confronted by two men he admitted to knowing and recognizing.
“I have literally seen him violently awakening from night terrors, following the assault. Some of my siblings, as well as Jussie’s partner and closest friends have seen similar things,” he says.
Jussie Smollett is now facing a civil suit from the city of Chicago demanding that he pay for the CPD’s overtime hours — around $130,000. Smollett’s attorneys have said they will respond to the suit and maintain Smollett’s innocence.