Jussie Smollett: Prosecutor Still Believes 'Empire' Star Is Guilty Despite Dropped Charges

Even though the attorney handling Jussie Smollett's high-profile case dropped all 16 felony charges against him, that doesn't mean he thinks the Empire star is innocent.

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

Magats added that Smollett was not exonerated by any means by the decision to drop the charges, something his lawyers heavily implied earlier in the day.

However, the technicalities point to Smollett's record being expunged and the case permanently sealed. Had the actor been convicted on all 16 counts, he would have faced years in prison.

In another TV interview, Magats referenced tragic violence sweeping Chicago as a "stain on the city" and that "some actor ...doing what he did, does not rise to that level." He insisted that real hate crimes are "vigorously prosecuted."

The state prosecutor praised the Chicago Police Department's probe of the Smollett matter as "nothing short of extraordinary" — just hours after the Chicago Police Superintendent and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel used particularly harsh language against the state's attorney office.

Magats took over the high-profile case after his boss, Kim Foxx, recused herself in February. Within the last week, the union representing the Chicago Police Department has called for a federal probe into Foxx's office's handling of the case.

After the fallout from the dropped charges grew more intense on Tuesday, Foxx's office said that "in the last two years, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office has referred more than 5,700 cases for alternative prosecution" — something Magats referenced in his argument to CBS Chicago as well.

"This is not a new or unusual practice," the prosecutors said in their own defense. "An alternative disposition does not mean that there were any problems or infirmities with the case or the evidence."

"We stand behind the Chicago Police Department's investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case," the SAO asserted. "We did not exonerate Mr. Smollet [sic]. The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollet's [sic] agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago. Without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped. This outcome was met under the same criteria that would occur for and is available to any defendant with similar circumstances."

Although the state charges have been dropped, Smollett isn't walking scot-free just yet. A federal investigation of the threatening letter sent to him will continue because it's a different jurisdiction and involved the U.S. mail.


There's no word if Smollett will be welcomed back to FOX's Empire, which dropped him from the last two episodes of the drama's current and fifth season. In a statement, the network said that they "are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed."

The charges against Smollett had to do with lying to police in an investigation into an alleged hate crime Smollett said he was the victim of in January. During the course of the investigation, which Chicago police initially treated as a hate crime, the scope changed, and Smollett was arrested on Feb. 21, when prosecutors read out in court a lengthy series of text messages between him and brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo that outlined a pre-planned attack. The text revealed discussions of money to buy supplies and drugs, set up meetings and ensured that MAGA hats and chants were part of the assault.