Prosecutor Who Dropped Charges Against Jussie Smollett Believes the Actor Is Guilty

First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats said prosecutors chose to drop the charges because of Smollett's "lack of criminal background."

Jussie Smollett

Image via Creative Commons

Jussie Smollett

The Cook County prosecutor who cleared Jussie Smollett in the alleged hate crime hoax said he is still convinced the Empire star is guilty.

"I do not believe he is innocent,” First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats told CBS Chicago on Tuesday. 

Smollett was previously accused of staging his own attack in late January, when he told police he had been verbally and physically assaulted by two masked white men in Chicago. The 36-year-old actor claimed the perpetrators beat him, tied a noose around his neck, and poured a liquid substance on him, before shouting, "This is MAGA country." After reviewing surveillance video, phone and bank records, as well as speaking to multiple witnesses and persons of interest, investigators concluded Smollett had staged the attack. He was subsequently arrested on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was facing up to 48 years behind bars.

So, if Chicago prosecutors still believe Smollett orchestrated his own attack, why was the case dismissed?

"Based on all facts and circumstances of the case, and also keeping in mind resources and keeping in mind that the office's number one priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence, I decided to offer this disposition in the case," Magats told CBS Chicago. When asked who ultimately decided to drop the charges, the prosecutor replied, "I did."

"Do you believe that he is innocent?" CBS reporter @adrianasdiaz asks First Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Joseph Magats about dropping charges against Jussie Smollett. "I do not believe he is innocent," Magats responds.

— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) March 26, 2019

Authorities said Smollett's "volunteer service in the community" and his "agreement to forfeit his [$10,000] bond to" the city played major roles in the decision. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel criticized the move as a "whitewash of justice."

"This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power, you'll get treated one way and other people will be treated another way," Emanuel said during a Tuesday press conference. "There is no accountability in the system. It is wrong, full stop."

Magats dismissed the mayor's "whitewashing" claims.

"Not true, it's just not. It's not a whitewash, he did community service, he has forfeited his bond, it’s just not a whitewash," the prosecutor said. 

Smollett's attorney Patricia Brown Holmes told the media "there was no deal" to get the actor's charge's dropped. The actor released a statement Tuesday, after it was confirmed he was cleared of all 16 counts.

"I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and world who have prayed for me, supported me and shown me love," his statement read in part. "[...] Now I'd like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere."

It's important to note Smollett isn't completely out of the woods. Federal agents continue to investigate a threatening letter the actor received at Fox studios. It is believed the actor sent the letter to himself prior to the Jan. 29 incident. 

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