Jussie Smollett skips NAACP Image Awards; Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx explains dropped charges
The actor was nominated for best supporting actor in a TV drama.
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett skipped the NAACP Image Awards Dinner on Friday night as controversy continued to swirl around the dismissal of felony charges against him for false reporting of a hate crime.
Meanwhile, at the same time as the awards show played out, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defended her office's decision to drop the charges against Smollett in a new op-ed.
Smollett, who stars as Jamal Lyon on the Fox series, had flown to Los Angeles on Wednesday, sparking rumors he might be in attendance at the awards show. Smollett was nominated for best supporting actor in a television drama for his role on "Empire" -- an award he has been nominated for four years in a row and won in 2017.
Jesse Williams, of "Grey's Anatomy," won the award on Friday night as part of the untelevised awards portion of the show. The rest of the awards will be given away live on TV One Saturday night.
All 16 felony counts against Smollett were abruptly dropped by prosecutors on Tuesday even though First Assistant State's Attorney Joe Magats said the office still believes he lied about the hate crime he claimed took place in Chicago on Jan. 29. Smollett falsely claimed he was exonerated outside the courthouse on Tuesday.
The decision prompted angry reactions from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who each reiterated their belief that the incident was a hoax -- with Emanuel wondering aloud, "Is there no decency in this man?"
Foxx, who had recused herself from the investigation, attempted to defend her office's decision repeatedly in interviews this week, including a one-on-one with ABC News.
"Our office handles cases like this, Class 4 felonies, disorderly conducts, in this way often," Foxx told ABC News. "We have an alternative prosecution unit in our office that the last two years has seen 5,700 cases come through -- many of them with similar outcomes as we've seen in this case."
Foxx reiterated a similar argument in an op-ed with the Chicago Tribune published Friday night.
"These felonies are routinely resolved, particularly in cases involving suspects with no prior criminal record, long before a case ever nears a courtroom and often without either jail time or monetary penalties," she wrote. "Any prosecutor, law-enforcement leader or elected official not grandstanding or clouded by political expediency understands the purpose of sentencing guidelines."
Smollett forfeited $10,000 of his bond amount and performed 16 hours of community service as penance.
Foxx also said in the column that despite "considerable evidence" that Smollett was lying about being attacked "my office believed the likelihood of securing a conviction was not certain."
She claimed the attacks made against her were "politically expedient," but welcomed "an outside, nonpolitical review of how we handled this matter." President Donald Trump is just one of many who has attacked the decision to dismiss charges against Smollett, calling it "an embarrassment to our Nation" on Twitter.
A federal investigation into the attack is ongoing and the FBI and Department of Justice are both reviewing the case.