Jussie Smollett's Brother Speaks Out in Defense of Actor: 'What If He Is Telling the Truth?'
Chicago police previously accused Jussie Smollett of paying $3,500 to stage a “bogus” attack on himself because he was unhappy with his Empire salary
Jussie Smollett‘s loved ones continue to support the Empire star amid scandal.
“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 actor told police he’d been attacked on the street in downtown Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 by two masked men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him and placed a rope around his neck.
Jussie was arrested Feb. 20 after an investigation, and 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.
In March, Jussie, who has faced intense scrutiny and backlash, pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police when he said he was attacked by two men in what authorities later claimed was a staged incident to draw attention to himself.
Police previously accused the star of paying $3,500 to stage a “bogus” attack on himself because he was unhappy with his Empire salary, though a source denied any dissatisfaction with money to PEOPLE.
“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?” JoJo wrote about the media and police allegations. “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?’ ”
Anthony Guglielmi, Chief Communications Officer for the Chicago Police, told PEOPLE in a statement: “At the end of the day people have to form their own conclusions. People should have access to unsealed records and form their own conclusions.”
JoJo further denied his brother’s alleged actions in the case, specifically calling the police’s accusations about Jussie staging the attack as “ludicrous.”
The protective older brother also stated that Jussie “never seeks attention” and “didn’t even want to contact the police, following his assault,” adding, “He was weary and didn’t care for the unnecessary attention it might garner.”
After charges against him were dropped in late March, Smollett spoke out and insisted that he has been telling the truth about the attack since the very beginning. “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he told reporters at the Cook County courthouse in Chicago. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of.”
The Smollett family (including Jussie’s sister, actress Jurnee-Smollett Bell) also released a statement, calling Jussie an “innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared” by “painful incidents” throughout the case.
“Jussie is a son, a brother, a partner, a champion for human rights, and a genuine soul who would never be capable of what he was falsely accused of,” the family said. “He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack … Truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated.”
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His attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, also released a statement to PEOPLE saying, “Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.”
Glandian and Holmes added, “Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” it continued. “This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. This is wrong. It is a reminder that the victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.”
At the end of March, all charges against the Fox star were dropped, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed to PEOPLE.
“After reviewing all the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” reads a statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office previously obtained by PEOPLE.
The office did not, however, fully retreat from its initial decision to bring charges against Smollett or otherwise address PEOPLE’s inquiry on whether prosecutors still believe he staged the attack, saying in a follow-up statement: “We stand by the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our approval of charges.”
If Smollett had been tried and found guilty of falsifying a police report, the Class 4 felony carried a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.
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JoJo concluded his lengthy essay by once again defending his brother’s character on and off-screen.
Describing his younger brother as a “good, soulful and spiritual man,” JoJo also said, “Jussie’s character on Empire represents much of who he is and has given voice to people who have been historically marginalized.”
JoJo even asked fans not to take pity on his brother, writing, “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.”
Empire airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.