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Jussie Smollett continues to maintain his innocence after he was found guilty of lying to police about being the victim of a racist, homophobic attack.
The Empire alum appeared on SiriusXM's Sway in the Morning on Tuesday, where he discussed the verdict in his first interview since his release from prison in March. Smollett once again denied the notion that he staged the hate crime to advance his career, claiming that he was on the "up and up."
"My entire career, but much more importantly, my entire life, along with my family, represented social justice," he said. "It's like finding out that someone is exactly the opposite of who they claim to be. If I had done this, I'd be a piece of shit. If I had done something like this, it would mean that I stuck my fist in the pain of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years."
"It would mean that I stuck my fist in the fears of the LGBTQ community all over the world," Smollett added. "All of these things that I was creating, there would be no reason for me to do some dumb, corny shit like that." Following his conviction in December 2021, Smollett said his family shielded him from the media frenzy "in a really beautiful way" at the height of the controversy.
"When I say I was shut off from the world, I was shut off from the world," Smollett said. "My family took my phone. I did not have my phone. I was not allowed to get on social media." When he eventually Googled himself, Smollett realized that was the "worst idea ever," adding, "I really saw what it was and it was so painful because I was like, 'Oh, he said that about me. Oh my God. Oh, she said that? What?'"
Rachel Luna/Getty Images Jussie Smollett maintains innocence in first interview after jail
The case dates back to January 2019, when Smollett, who is openly gay, told Chicago police that two men yelled racist and homophobic slurs at and attacked him, poured an unknown chemical substance on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck. A month later, prosecutors charged Smollett with filing a false report, before dropping the charges in March 2019. In February 2020, Smollett was indicted again on similar charges. Prosecutors maintained that Smollett orchestrated the attack with the two men — brothers who testified that the actor paid them to do so — to gain publicity.
In March, Smollett was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation, with the first 150 days to be served in county jail. He was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago. A few days after his sentencing, an appeals court agreed to release Smollett pending the appeal of his conviction. Smollett has consistently denied any wrongdoing, telling the jury in March that "there was no hoax."
Watch Smollett's Sway in the Morning interview above.
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