The Cook County prosecutor who dropped the charges against Jussie Smollett said Tuesday he believes the actor is guilty, but decided not to prosecute him anyway.
“I do not believe he is innocent,” First Assistant Cook’s County State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told CBS Chicago.
Does he think Mr. Smollet is guilty? “Yes,” he replied.
Even so, he said he opted to drop the 16 felony counts stemming from the alleged hate-crime hoax based on the “Empire” star’s lack of criminal background and other factors.
“Based on his all the facts and circumstances. Based on his lack of criminal background. I mean, we defer or do alternative prosecutions — in the last two years, we’ve done it on 5,700 other felony cases,” said Mr. Magats, a 28-year veteran of the office.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has come under fire for the decision, although she announced last month she had recused herself from the case, and Mr. Magats said she was not involved in the decision.
Chicago officials decried the stunning move, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a “whitewash of justice,” but the prosecutor disagreed.
“Not true, it’s just not,” Mr. Magats said. “It’s not a whitewash, he did community service, he has forfeited his bond, it’s just not a whitewash.”
Mr. Smollett forfeited a $10,000 bond and performed 16 hours of community service over two days with the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
Mr. Magats insisted the actor had not been vindicated or exonerated. The 36-year-old Smollett reported being attacked Jan. 29 by two men in ski masks who called him racist and homophobic slurs, described by police as a hoax designed to advance his career.
The actor continued to maintain his innocence at a press conference Tuesday at the courthouse.
“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Mr. Smollett told reporters. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.”