In an op-ed published Saturday on BET.com, Jussie Smollett's brother Jojo Smollett examines the events of the case, defends Jussie's character and suggests that American citizens consider the possibility that he is telling the truth about his role as a victim in the alleged hate crime that the actor maintains occurred in late January.
Jojo writes that his brother's life was "turned upside-down" after he was accused by a Chicago grand jury of multiple felonies associated with lying to police about the attack — in which Jussie alleged two men screamed homophobic language and wrapped a rope around his neck — during which Jussie was subject to "repeated and unrelenting attacks to his character and reputation." Added Jojo, "Like so many others, this entire process quickly devolved from a focus on him as a victim of assault, to him being falsely accused and held responsible for a crime that was perpetrated against him. To define this experience as unjust would be an understatement."
He goes on to write that details were leaked by news outlets despite sufficient evidence, which he believes led to Jussie being "convicted in the court of public opinion" before the case reached the courtroom. Referencing the sequence of events, Jojo writes, "Is that all it takes to destroy a lifelong dedication to one’s craft and community? Is it really that easy to convince the world of a person’s guilt? Is that all it takes to turn someone’s life upside down in America? Simply ask yourself this, 'What if Jussie is telling the truth?'"
Further into the op-ed, Jojo expresses shock at how quickly the public accepted the apparent motive that Jussie launched the attack due to dissatisfaction with his career. "Jussie had actually begun directing episodes of Empire, which brought additional compensation," writes Jojo. "He worked out a deal with Fox to own 100% of his music masters, released an album, which lead [sic] to a sold out world tour and he donated every cent of ticket sales to charity. He even signed the group, June’s Diary, to his label."
Jojo continues his argument: "My brother was developing two films with one of the biggest producers in Hollywood, had the lead to a Broadway show on the table and owns the option rights to the authorized autobiography of his idol, Alvin Ailey. All pointing to not only an advancing career but a business savvy mind. To suggest that he staged his own attack to boost a sagging career is ludicrous." Jojo follows this up by noting that the criminal justice system has come a long way, though it still has a long way to go.
Speaking to his brother's character, Jojo calls Jussie an "unusually good, soulful and spiritual man" whose character on Empire "represents much of who he is and has given voice to people who have been historically marginalized."
Concluding the op-ed, Jojo encourages "conscious-minded people" to consider the question: "What if Jussie is telling the truth?"
In a series of recently released text messages obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Chicago's Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx revealed that she believed the charges against Jussie were too severe a punishment for the crime he was believed to have committed.