Jussie Smollett wants people to hear his side of the story amid renewed charges for allegedly staging a hate crime. As he was leaving Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, the former Empire actor made a rare statement to TMZ proclaiming his innocence.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smollett said. “It’s fight or die at this point.”
Smollett was charged last year with lying to police when he claimed that he was attacked by two men wearing red MAGA hats. The actor said that the two men in Chicago put a rope around his neck and poured a chemical on him that smelled like bleach while shouting racial and homophobic slurs.
He was later slapped with 16 different charges related to the claim, which prosecutors said was faked in order to help bring attention to the actor and benefit his career.
The State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges in March 2019, but six charges were brought back against the actor earlier this month.
Smollett has repeatedly maintained his innocence, and he did so again on Tuesday, insisting to photographers through his lawyer that he believed the justice system would work in his favor.
Smollett’s legal team has argued that the renewed charges constitute double jeopardy and should be dropped.
He was asked by the photographer if he believed that arguing double jeopardy was a better strategy than maintaining and proving his innocence in court. He said “I didn’t do it” was the best defense of all.
“The truth is the best defense,” said Smollett. “The truth, which they know nothing about.”
When asked if he still claims that he is innocent of the charges, Smollett told the photographer, “I don’t claim to be innocent, I am innocent” before sliding into his car to leave the airport with his lawyer Tina Glandian.
Smollett was also hit with a lawsuit from the city of Chicago, which is seeking $500,00 for costs associated with investigating the alleged hoax.
Smollett’s case is complicated by Abel and Ola Osundairo, two brothers who worked with Smollett on Empire. They say that Smollett paid them to help stage the attack, and that they purchased ski masks and red hats to help play their roles. They claim that the actor hired them in order to boost his career and now they’re hoping that he will admit to his part in the alleged fraud, as The Inquisitr reported.