The curious case of Jussie Smollett just got quite a bit more inexplicable.
A prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dropped all 16 felony charges against the former “Empire” star on Tuesday, sparking mass bewilderment and deep frustration from Chicago Police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who say the mountain of evidence against him could easily have convicted him of staging a fake hate crime attack himself with two Nigerian brothers posing as President Trump supporters.
But here’s what’s even weirder. The prosecutor is dropping the charges, expunging Smollett’s record, and getting his case sealed without actually saying he believes the actor is innocent.
In fact, prosecutor Joe Magats said he believes Smollett did indeed lie to police about the attack, CNN reported.
"We believe he did what he was charged with doing," he explained. "This was not an exoneration.
“To say he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true."
He added: "There are plenty of other cases ... over 5,700 that have gotten some type of alternative or deferred type of prosecution involving a dismissal at the end of the case. To think that there is some type of infirmity or something that we learned about the case or something that we don't want aired is not true."
Magats didn’t address the fact, though, that Smollett’s claims of being attacked by Trump supporters because he’s an openly gay black man sparked national outrage against the president and his supporters. He didn’t address, as Emanuel did, the hundreds and hundreds of hours of police work and the future doubt that could now be cast on victims of true hate crimes.
Even though the charges are being dropped, Smollett was given a light slap on the wrist. He already did 16 hours of community service at Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH non-profit organization and forfeited the bond money that he paid to the city of Chicago.
"It may not have been the disposition that everybody thought would occur," Magats admitted. "He did do community service. He did forfeit $10,000. It's a fair and just disposition in the case."
The prosecutor also stood by the hard work of the Chicago Police in investigating Smollett’s claims, even though all that work seems to be for naught now.
"We stand behind the work that they did. But in the end, this was the justice position in the case," Magats said.
Patricia Brown Holmes, one of Smollett’s attorneys, insisted that "There was no political influence in this case."
Emanuel is not so sure. He indicated that when asked if he thought a political motivation could be at play. The mayor made it clear he thinks something fishy is going on.
“It is not on the level from beginning to end, and there needs to be a level of accountability throughout the system,” Emanuel said about Magat’s decision at a fiery press conference. “This sends an unambiguous message that there is no accountability, and that is wrong.”
He also said: "Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department. How dare him! How dare him! Still no sense of ownership of what he's done. This is a person who's been let off scot-free with no sense of accountability to the moral and ethical wrong of his actions."
"Is there no decency in this man?"
The Chicago Police union has called for a Justice Department investigation into the prosecutor’s decision.