Why prosecutors dropped charges against Jussie Smollett in favor of an 'alternative resolution'

PHOTO: Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, March 26, 2019.PlayKamil Krzaczynski/Reuters
WATCH Chicago mayor and top cop irate over prosecutors' deal with Jussie Smollett

Prosecutors dropped all charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, despite acknowledging that Smollett fabricated a street attack on himself, in order to focus resources on violent crimes, Cook County first assistant state attorney Joe Magats said in an interview Tuesday with ABC Chicago station WLS.

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In addition, since Smollett had no prior felony background, no history of violence and was charged with felony disorderly conduct, a "low-level felony," Magats felt that the case could be resolved by an "alternative disposition" that included the actor performing community service and forfeiting the remainder of his $10,000 bond to Cook County. Prosecutors also asked a judge to immediately seal the case.

Magats said both the decision to indict Smollett and then later drop the charges in favor of the alternative resolution was "the right thing to do in the case" after "looking at all the facts and circumstances."

"People lying to police is certainly important and deserves accountability," he said.

PHOTO: Joeseph Magats, first assistant state attorney for Cook County, Ill., explains why he decided to drop charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett for an alternative resolution. WLS
Joeseph Magats, first assistant state attorney for Cook County, Ill., explains why he decided to drop charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett for an "alternative resolution."

The decision was not solely resource-based, Magats said, but he said that the state attorney's office is trying to focus its resources on Chicago's violence and gun crimes, as well as other "drivers of violence." About 5,700 criminal cases in the past two years, most of them non-violent and many in which the defendant was guilty, have been resolved in a similar fashion, Magats said.

"I do not believe Mr. Smollett is a driver of violence," he said.

These types of deals are made "every day," and the reasons Magats gave for his decision "aren't unusual," said ABC News senior legal correspondent and analyst Sunny Hostin.

Although the charges were dropped, Magats made clear that "this was not an exoneration." When asked whether he believes Smollett fabricated the incident, Magats replied, "yes."

"To say that he was exonerated by us or anyone is not true," he said.

PHOTO: Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, March 26, 2019. Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters
Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, March 26, 2019.

The sole decision for the alternative disposition was made by Magats, he said. Magats took over the case when his boss, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the investigation after it surfaced that she had been in touch with Smollett's family.

The decision prompted angry reactions from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who both reiterated in a press conference Tuesday that they believe the incident was a hoax engineered by Smollett "in the name of self-promotion."

Magats said that he understands why the mayor and police superintendent "feel the way they do," but defended his decision, saying it was "the right disposition in the case."

Hostin said it is "odd" that the police department was seemingly "blindsided" by the state attorney's decision to drop the charges, especially considering how many hours the police department and other law enforcement officials devoted to conducting the investigation.

"To me, it's clear that some sort of deal was made between the defense and the government, but without the knowledge and acquiescence of the police department," Hostin said.

In addition, Hostin theorized that the state attorney's office may have decided not to move forward with the case due to the "show" the police department put on after announcing the charges against Smollett last month, which was essentially "trying the case in the court of public opinion" for "any potential juror or defense attorney to see."

During that Feb. 21 news conference, an emotional Johnson accused Smollett of taking "advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."

"I've never quite seen anything like that," Hostin said.

Another perplexing factor in such a high-profile case is that all sides are claiming victory -- with law enforcement standing by their decision to press charges and Smollett continuing to proclaim his innocence, Hostin said.

Following an emergency court hearing in Chicago Tuesday, Smollett maintained his innocence, saying he's "been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one."

"This has been an incredibly difficult time," he said. "Honestly, one of the worst of my entire life. But I am a man of faith and I'm a man that has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives, or the movement into a fire like this. I just wouldn't. Now I'd like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistake I will always continue to fight for justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere."

ABC News' Chris Francescani and Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.