Jussie Smollett appeared in an Instagram Live conversation with author and activist Marc Lamont Hill, during which he spoke about the controversy around his alleged 2019 hate crime attack, the ongoing trial, and the public response.
"It's been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue," he said. "I'm still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don't really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. ... It's so much bigger than me."
In case you’ve forgotten, the gay Empire actor was indicted in March 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a report in January 2019 claiming that two men attacked him near his Chicago apartment while spewing racist and homophobic slurs, physically assaulting him, pouring bleach on him, and hanging a noose around his neck. The police alleged it was a false report.
Smollett’s case drew criticism from the public as well as Donald Trump, and resulted in his ultimate firing from Empire, which ended its run in April.
The actor was arrested in February 2019 for coordinating the attack. Then in March, he was mysteriously cleared of all charges, much to the disdain of then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. A few months later, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed a special prosecutor, Dan Webb, to investigate why his charges were dropped.
Webb brought the new charges against the actor: a six-count indictment, to which he pleaded not guilty. Smollett maintains he did not stage the attack.
"They won't let this go," he said to Hill. "It doesn't matter — there is an example being made. And the sad part is that there's an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of."
As far as allegations that he staged the attack, he said, "From the very, very beginning, it was set up to seem like I was lying about something or everything,” later adding, “there would be no reason for me to do this” before saying the last thing he wants to do is "be portrayed as a victim."
Ahead of the interview, Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Tiq Milan and more all signed an open letter standing in solidarity with Smollett.
"We believe Jussie, not the CPD," they wrote bluntly. The letter alleges that the Chicago Police Department witheld evidence from the public that corroborated Smollett's story including eye witness reports of a "white man with a rope hanging from his pocket waiting outside Jussie’s apartment."
"We believe this case is being used to distract us from the countless acts of racial injustice perpetrated by police against Black people and LBGTQ people and particularly in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and many others," they wrote.
Watch the full conversation below: