Jussie Smollett's brother, Jojo, is standing by him.
In a lengthy op-ed for BET.com published on Saturday, Jojo reflected on the "public persecution" against his brother, and begged fans to ask themselves: "What if Jussie is telling the truth?" All charges against Jussie were dropped on March 26, following the Chicago Police Department's accusation that he filed a false police report in which he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime.
"It has not yet been 90 days since my younger brother, Jussie Smollett, was assaulted on a cold winter night in Chicago. Within less than three months, his life has been turned upside down as my family and I have witnessed him endure unrelenting attacks to his character and reputation," Jojo wrote.
The alleged attack took place in the early hours of Jan. 29. Smollett told police that two masked men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him before pouring an unknown substance believed to be bleach on him, and placing a rope against his neck. The Chicago police first investigated the incident as a hate crime before alleging that Smollett had orchestrated the attack himself. He was arrested on Feb. 20 and later indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports.
"Like so many others, 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. To define this experience as unjust would be an understatement," Jojo said, claiming that "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."
Police accused the Empire star of paying $3,500 to stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary on the Fox series. Jussie maintained his innocence, and pleaded not guilty to the 16 felony counts on March 14.
"The entire police case rested on two witnesses that lacked credibility and there was no physical evidence tying Jussie to this crime," Jojo wrote, referencing the Osundario brothers, who claimed to police that Smollett had paid them for the alleged attack. Jojo expressed how shocked he was that people "accepted the ridiculous motive about Jussie’s career that was promulgated."
According to Jojo, Smollett was earning additional income from Empire after he started directing, had recently worked out a deal with Fox to own 100 percent of his music masters, and was receiving compensation for his recent album and sold-out world tour. "To suggest that he staged his own attack to boost a sagging career is ludicrous. Jussie has a team of extremely effective agents, managers, publicists, and attorneys who helped him acquire career advancement. He wouldn't need to roll around on the icy ground of a Chicago street, staging an attack on himself to make this happen," Jojo said.
Jojo continued, alleging that Jussie was so averse to the attention brought about by the alleged attack that he didn't even want to report it to the police. He also claimed that the actor, who forfeited his $10,000 bail to the City of Chicago, was concerned it "could look like an admission of guilt."
"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," Jojo concluded. "I am simply hoping there are some conscious-minded people out there who, instead of carelessly victim blaming and shaming, want to loudly ask the simple question: 'What if Jussie is telling the truth?'"
Jussie is currently facing a lawsuit from the City of Chicago over the cost of investigating the alleged attack. The civil complaint follows the actor's "refusal to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report," the City of Chicago and Chicago Law Department told ET on April 11.
According to court documents, the City of Chicago "expended significant resources and manpower, including, but not limited to, $130,106.15 in CPD overtime pay" in regards to their investigation in Jussie's case.
The documents requested that the court fine Smollett "a civil penalty of $1,000 for each false statement he made to the city" to be proven at trial, and "three times the amount of the damages that the City sustained," as well as legal fees and court costs.
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