Jussie Smollett was a no-show at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards dinner on Friday, where he lost in his nominated category, days after his felony charges for allegedly falsely reporting a hate crime attack were dismissed.
The 36-year-old Empire actor had made headlines in January when he told Chicago police that two men attacked him on a street in the city, during which they allegedly put a noose around his neck, poured bleach over him and yelled racial and homophobic slurs. The following month, he was charged with staging the incident himself and filing a false police report. He pleaded not guilty.
On Tuesday, prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett, spurring outrage from Chicago police and even President Donald Trump, who the actor has spoken out against.
On Friday, several honors were announced at the 2019 NAACP Image Awards dinner in Los Angeles. Smollett, who flew to the city earlier this week, was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role on Empire and lost to Jesse Williams from Grey's Anatomy, ABC News reported. More awards will be presented at a televised NAACP Image Awards ceremony on Saturday.
Anthony Anderson, who returns as host for the sixth consecutive year, had told Variety he hoped Smollett would attend the event and also win the award.
"I'm happy for him that the system worked for him in his favor because the system isn't always fair, especially for people of color," he added. "So I'm glad it worked out for him. It's not my place or any other person's place to judge him or what not, but I'm glad the he's nominated…I hope he wins because I'd be interested to hear his speech."
Had he attended the dinner, it would not have marked the first time the actor has attended a public event since he reported the alleged attack to Chicago police. In February, he performed a scheduled concert at Los Angeles' Troubadour club, where he talked about his ordeal, saying he fought his attackers. He also joked he was "the gay Tupac [Shakur]."
Later that month, just before he was charged for allegedly staging the incident, he made his first onscreen appearance since the reported attack, giving an interview to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. He reiterated that he fought back.
When asked why he hesitated to call the police after the attack, Smollett said, "There's a level of pride there. We live in a society where, as a gay man, you are considered somehow, to be weak, and I'm not weak. I am not weak. And we, as a people, are not weak."
Chicago authorities are unhappy with the prosecutors' decision to drop the charges against Smollett. The City of Chicago is demanding he pay $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into his case. Smollett has until Thursday to pay, and if it's not on time, the city can sue him in civil court for up to three times the damages, CBS Chicago reported.
Trump tweeted on Thursday morning, "FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago. It is an embarrassment to our Nation!"
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told WGN Radio that Trump should "just sit this one out," according to the Chicago Tribune.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx had recused herself from the investigation of Smollett. State records show that the actor's attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, had contributed $1,250 to her campaign between 2015 and 2018.
in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune on Friday, Foxx defended her office's decision to drop the charges against Smollett.
"Since it seems politically expedient right now to question my motives and actions, and those of my office, let me state publicly and clearly that I welcome an outside, nonpolitical review of how we handled this matter," Foxx wrote. "I am not perfect, nor is any other prosecutor out there, but ensuring that I and my office have our community's trust is paramount."
"First, falsely reporting a hate crime is a dangerous and unlawful act, and Smollett was not exonerated of that in this case," the op-ed continued. "Second, our criminal justice system is at its best when jails are used to protect us from the people we rightly fear, while alternative outcomes are reserved for the people who make us angry but need to learn the error of their ways without seeing their lives irrevocably destroyed."