The Chicago district attorney who made the final decision to drop the 16 felony counts against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said that the charges being dropped did not mean the actor was innocent.
“We didn’t exonerate him,” Joe Magats, the assistant state attorney who made the decision, told the New York Times.
The decision was made by Magats because Kim Foxx, the head of the Cook County State Attorney’s Office, recused herself from the case after speaking with a family member of the actor several days after the alleged Jan. 29 attack.
Magats said that the investigation by the police and the evidence they presented was solid.
NEW from Chicago: Joe Magats, the first assistant state’s attorney who made the final decision to drop the charges against Jussie Smollett, says in an interview: “We didn’t exonerate him.”
— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman) March 26, 2019
Repeating a statement put out by the office, he said that the charges were dropped in an agreement with Smollett’s legal team, in exchange for the actor completing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond to the city.
“Here’s the thing—we work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime. Public safety is our number one priority. I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety,” Magats said. “We stand behind the investigation, we stand behind the decision to charge him and we stand behind the charges in the case. The mere fact that it was disposed of in an alternative manner does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities in the case or the evidence,” said Magats.
The explanation came after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson slammed the deal, calling it a “whitewash.”
“This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice,” Emanuel said at a news conference on the afternoon of March 26, reported ABC. “There is no accountability. It is wrong, full stop.”
“At the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax, period,” Johnson said, noting the deal was brokered in secret.
Alluding to an earlier claim by Smollett’s team that the actor would be vindicated if the case went to trial, he added: “I heard that they wanted their day in court … so America could know the truth, and they chose to hide behind a secrecy of a brokered deal to circumvent the judicial system.”
Emanuel further stated that only “a sliver” of the evidence gathered in the weekslong investigation was presented to the grand jury that indicted Smollett, indicating the voluminous accumulation that authorities obtained in the probe.
Smollett, Emanuel said, used his race and privilege to “get off scot-free,” noting that the actor did not admit any wrongdoing. The mayor wondered: “Is there no decency in this man?”
While prosecutors said they didn’t exonerate Smollett, the actor told reporters in a press conference that the charges being dropped indicated his innocence.