The actor said "there's an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of"

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 10, 2020 09:57 AM
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Jerod Harris/Getty

Jussie Smollett is speaking out about the controversy surrounding his alleged 2019 attack in a rare interview.

On Wednesday, the former Empire actor, 38, appeared in an Instagram Live conversation with author and activist Marc Lamont Hill, during which he opened up about his ongoing trial. Smollett said the situation has been "frustrating, to say the least," when he joined about 40 minutes into Hill's hour-long livestream.

"It's been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue," he said about publicly commenting on the case. "I'm still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don't really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. ... It's so much bigger than me."

Smollett, an openly gay Black actor, was originally indicted in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him on Jan. 29, 2019, while spewing racist and homophobic slurs.

He pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police about the incident, which authorities later claimed he had staged with two acquaintances to draw attention to himself. Later that same month, the charges against Smollett were dropped by the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

Most recently, in February, Smollett pleaded not guilty to a six-count indictment which revived the disorderly conduct allegations previously filed and then dropped in the case. Smollett has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Smollett said that what has happened to him over the past nearly two years has "humbled me." He claimed that his legal team filed a motion against his indictment that will be reviewed on Thursday in court. "I believe I have to give it up to God," the actor said, though he admitted he doesn't think the legal action will fall in his favor.

"They won't let this go," he said. "It doesn't matter — there is an example being made. And the sad part is that there's an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of."

He later addressed claims that he orchestrated the alleged hate crime as a hoax for attention: "From the very, very beginning, it was set up to seem like I was lying about something or everything."

Toward the end of the interview, Smollett said "there would be no reason for me to do this" and "this is bulls---," adding that the "last thing" he wants to do is "be portrayed as a victim."

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After the initial charges were dropped in March 2019, Smollett told reporters, “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.” Smollett added, “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of.”

The Smollett family also released a statement at the time, 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.”