USA

'I believe my brother': Jurnee Smollett stands by Jussie, says scandal is hard on family

Jussie Smollett's sister, actress Jurnee Smollett, is maintaining her brother's innocence in her first public comments since he was accused of filing a false report about an alleged hate crime last year.

"It's been f---ing painful," Jurnee Smollett, star of "Birds of Prey" and HBO's "Lovecraft Country," told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Wednesday.

"One of the most painful things my family's ever experienced — to love someone as much as we love my brother, and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating," she said in the wide-ranging interview.

Jussie Smollett, who is Black and gay, told Chicago police on Jan. 29, 2019, that he was attacked at around 2 a.m. by two men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured a chemical — possibly bleach — over him. The former "Empire" actor said the alleged attack happened near his apartment in the upscale neighborhood of Streeterville.

Brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo were arrested in February 2019 on suspicion that they may have been involved in a crime but were not charged in the attack and released. Police allege the brothers were hired by Jussie Smollett to stage the attack.

Jurnee Smollett, 33, told The Hollywood Reporter that she was "already in a very dark space for a number of reasons" and tried to not let the scandal surrounding her brother make her "pessimistic."

"But everyone who knows me knows that I love my brother and I believe my brother," she added.

"We are blessed to have a community of people who know him," the actress told the outlet, "and know that he wouldn't do this."

At the time of the investigation, Chicago police said Jussie Smollett was unhappy with his salary on "Empire" and was attempting to gain public sympathy to boost his career.

The actor was arrested in February 2019 and was indicted the following month on 16 felony counts for allegedly filing a false police report. The charges were dropped weeks later, sparking national debate.

But in February, a special prosecutor who was assigned to the case announced that a grand jury indicted the actor on six disorderly conduct charges for allegedly lying to police. Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to the charges and has maintained his innocence.

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