Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who appeared in a Chicago court earlier this week to face six new counts of disorderly conduct and lying to Chicago police officers, told reporters with TMZ that he’s “innocent” and that the “truth” will be his defense in his new trial, due to start in mid-March.
“The ex-“Empire” star was leaving LAX Tuesday when a photog ran into him and asked to see how he’s holding up,” TMZ reported Wednesday. “His lawyer says he’s a tough cookie, but Jussie laughs it off — it’s pretty clear he’s going through it, and seems to think at least that much should be obvious.”
Smollett, dressed in a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt and a pair of sunglasses, threw most of the questions to his attorney, who was riding the escalator with him.
“He’s resiliant. He’ll get through this,” she told the photographer.
It’s “frustrating,” Smollett eventually added, but that “you just gotta, it’s fight or die at this point, right.”
When asked if he still claimed to be innocent, Smollett shot back, “I don’t claim to be innocent, I am innocent.”
The remarks echo remarks Smollett made earlier in the week, ahead of his appearance in a Cook County courtroom, where he pleaded not guilty to the six resurrected charges.
Fox News reported that Smollett told media amassed outside the courthouse that, “The truth is the best defense. The truth which they know nothing about.”
Smollett is charged with staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself last January. In the early hours of a frigid morning, Smollett says, two white men wearing masks and pro-Trump gear and brandishing a noose screamed slurs at him, pushed him to the ground, tossed the rope around his neck, splashed a liquid on him, and then ran off into the darkness shouting about “MAGA country.”
Smollett spoke twice to Chicago police about the incident, but after a two week investigation, detectives revealed that they believed Smollett orchestrated the attack with the help of two Nigerian-American brothers that he’d met on the set of “Empire.” Prosecutors charged him with 16 counts of lying to police but dropped the charges after Smollett inked an unofficial “plea deal” with the Cook County States Attorney’s office.
Concerned that Smollett got special treatment from Cook Country States Attorney Kim Foxx, a special prosecutor was appointed. That prosecutor charged Smollett with six new counts of disorderly behavior, alleging that there was enough evidence in police files to support the idea that Smollett faked a hate crime and lied to police.
On Monday, a Cook County judge agreed that the case against Smollett should move forward, brushing aside Smollett’s lawyers claims of “double jeopardy” and noting that the court would not wait for Smollett to appeal either the charges or the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The city of Chicago is determined to get justice. On Wednesday, the Daily Wire’s James Barrett reported that mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters that the city plans to “aggressively make [Smollett] accountable” for his “total hoax.”
The city is also suing Smollett to recover more than $130,000 in overtime, paid to Chicago police officers investigating the incident. Smollett has countersued the city, claiming that an investigation was necessary because the attack was not a “hoax.”