Joe Magats prosecutor Smollett
Joe Magats prosecutor Smollett
PHOTO: WLS
Now playing
02:44
Prosecutor who dropped charges: Smollett isn't innocent
US President Joe Biden swears in presidential appointees during a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden swears in presidential appointees during a virtual ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
01:29
'I'll fire you on the spot': Biden tells staff to treat others with respect
President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
PHOTO: Evan Vucci/AP
Now playing
02:56
Biden signs executive actions aimed at dismantling Trump's policies
Harris
Harris
PHOTO: Senate Tv
Now playing
02:01
A proud Harris smiles as she swears in new senators in her new role
Former US President George W Bush (L), Jym Clyburn from South Carolina and Former US President Bill Clinton (R) speak ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President, on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Former US President George W Bush (L), Jym Clyburn from South Carolina and Former US President Bill Clinton (R) speak ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President, on the West Front of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 20, 2021. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Now playing
01:16
Clyburn reveals what Bush said about Trump and Biden at inauguration
Now playing
00:54
Officer who lured Capitol rioters away applauded at inauguration
SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 08: The suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump appears on an iPhone screen on January 08, 2021 in San Anselmo, California. Citing the risk of further incitement of violence following an attempted insurrection on Wednesday, Twitter permanently suspended President Donald Trump
SAN ANSELMO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 08: The suspended Twitter account of U.S. President Donald Trump appears on an iPhone screen on January 08, 2021 in San Anselmo, California. Citing the risk of further incitement of violence following an attempted insurrection on Wednesday, Twitter permanently suspended President Donald Trump's account. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
04:29
What impact could deplatforming Donald Trump have?
Now playing
00:00
Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president of the United States
Amanda Gorman, a 23-year-old Black woman who is the United States
Amanda Gorman, a 23-year-old Black woman who is the United States' first-ever youth poet laureate, recited a poem at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
PHOTO: Pool
Now playing
05:32
Youth poet laureate recites stunning poem at Biden inauguration
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:07
President Donald Trump departs the White House
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrew on Wednesday, January 20.
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Base Andrew on Wednesday, January 20.
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:00
See Trump's final message as President as his family looks on
banon wayne split
banon wayne split
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
02:00
Trump pardons 73 people, commutes sentences of 70 others
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen beyond a security fence on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 17: The U.S. Capitol dome is seen beyond a security fence on January 17, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's riots at the U.S. Capitol Building, the FBI has warned of additional threats in the nation's capital and in all 50 states. According to reports, as many as 25,000 National Guard soldiers will be guarding the city as preparations are made for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th U.S. President. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Now playing
01:15
12 Army National Guard members removed from inauguration duty
(CNN) —  

The prosecutor who dropped the charges against Jussie Smollett said he still believes the actor lied to the police about the racist and homophobic attack he allegedly staged in Chicago in January.

In a surprise hearing Tuesday, Joe Magats, the first assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, Illinois, announced he decided to drop charges against Smollett. The stunning reversal 18 days after a grand jury indicted the “Empire” actor on felony disorderly conduct outraged the Chicago mayor and police department.

The decision to drop the charges does not mean the actor was innocent or any new evidence was presented, Magats told CNN affiliate WLS.

“We believe he did what he was charged with doing,” he said. “This was not an exoneration. To say he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true.”

He said charges are dropped in thousands of cases, but Smollett’s case is getting scrutinized because he is a celebrity.

“There are plenty of other cases … over 5,700 that have gotten some type of alternative or deferred type of prosecution involving a dismissal at the end of the case,” he said. “To think that there is some type of infirmity or something that we learned about the case or something that we don’t want aired is not true.”

Jussie Smollett leaves a Chicago courthouse Tuesday after the charges were dropped against him.
Jussie Smollett leaves a Chicago courthouse Tuesday after the charges were dropped against him.
PHOTO: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Brothers were ‘fully prepared’ to testify

The story of what happened to Smollett on that chilly night on January 29 has transfixed much of the nation for nearly two months.

Smollett told police that two men targeted him about 2 a.m., tied a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him.

As they attacked the gay actor, they used homophobic and racial slurs, he said at the time. Police spent days scouring through surveillance footage and eventually narrowed their search for suspects to two brothers who knew Smollett. After questioning the men, police later said the actor had paid them to stage the attack as a way to gain publicity.

In the weeks since the alleged attack, the actor was arrested and charged with lying to police about a hate crime, turning him from a victim to a suspect and then a defendant within weeks. All that culminated in the surprise hearing Tuesday that shut the door on a case that intrigued the nation with its changing story lines.

Gloria Schmidt, the attorney for the brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, said they were “fully prepared” to testify in Smollett’s case. After the charges were dropped, the attorney said via a publicist she no longer represents the brothers as trial witnesses in the criminal matter.

When announcing the charges last month, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to attack him.

Days before the assault, Smollett allegedly tried to gain attention by sending a false letter to the set of his show. It contained racial, homophobic and political language, along with white powder and a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree, police said.

Patricia Brown Holmes, the attorney for Smollett, fields reporters
Patricia Brown Holmes, the attorney for Smollett, fields reporters' questions Tuesday in Chicago.
PHOTO: CNN

Chicago divided over decision to drop charges

The case has sparked political discord in one of America’s largest cities.

While the actor’s attorneys hailed the dropping of the case as vindication, the city’s top officials issued stern statements slamming what they described as a hoax.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Smollett used the prospect of a hate crime to advance his acting career and is now walking around like he did nothing wrong.

“It’s just not right. It’s not right on any level,” he said.

Emanuel described it as a “whitewash of justice” that sends a message that people with power and influence are held to a different standard.

Chicago’s police union has called for a federal investigation into Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx over her involvement in the case and text messages she exchanged with Smollett family friends before she recused herself in mid-February.

Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, said no one did them any favors and no political calls were made on their behalf. “There was no political influence in this case,” she said.

She said city officials are upset because they did not know the state’s attorney was going to drop the case. She said it was not the responsibility of the defense team to let them know.

She also accused the police of leaking incomplete and inaccurate information to the media. “The public took that information and treated it as if it were true,” she said.

But when Magats dropped the charges, he said the Chicago Police Department “did a phenomenal job” in the investigation.

“We stand behind the work that they did. But in the end, this was the justice position in the case,” he said.

"A grand jury saw the evidence (and) realized this was a hoax," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
"A grand jury saw the evidence (and) realized this was a hoax," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
PHOTO: CNN

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office released little about why it abandoned the 16 felony disorderly conduct charges, except to say it came after reviewing the case’s facts, and that the actor agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Parts of the case will be sealed, one of Smollett’s attorneys said.

16 hours of community service and $10,000 bond forfeiture

For the charges to be dropped, Smollett had to forfeit his bond of $10,000 and do community service, Magats said.

He agreed to forfeit the bond and performed 16 hours of volunteer service Saturday and Monday for the Rainbow Push Coalition, which the Rev. Jesse Jackson founded.

“It may not have been the disposition that everybody thought would occur,” Magats told the affiliate. “He did do community service. He did forfeit $10,000. It’s a fair and just disposition in the case.”

Smollett’s attorneys maintain that the actor was indeed attacked in Chicago on January 29 and that misinformation led to a rush to judgment against him.

After a brief appearance in a courtroom where the charges were formally dropped, Smollett told reporters Tuesday morning he was thankful to everyone who stood by him, and that he wouldn’t have put his family “through a fire like this” for a lie.

“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since Day One,” Smollett said before leaving the court building. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”

Smollett said he wanted to move on with his life, adding that he “will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”

CNN’s Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna and Sheena Jones contributed to this report.