"Empire" star Jussie Smollett's older brother JoJo has a simple question to ask: "What if Jussie is telling the truth?"
That's the tile of an essay the eldest Smollett sibling wrote for BET, where he recounted the hardships his brother has faced since January. The "Empire" actor made headlines on Jan. 29 when he reported he was attacked by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs. He was later charged with filing a false police report and prosecutors said he staged the attack before ultimately dropping the charges.
"Within less than three months, his life has been turned upside down as my family and I have witnessed him endure unrelenting attacks to his character and reputation," wrote JoJo Smolett, the head of a nonprofit that helps disabled people enter America’s work force. "Like so many others, this entire process quickly devolved from a focus on him as a victim of assault, to him being falsely accused and held responsible for a crime that was perpetrated against him. To define this experience as unjust would be an understatement."
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26, just weeks after he was indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct. The decision immediately drew criticism from Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who referred to it as a "whitewash of justice."
In his essay, JoJo went on to criticize both the media and the Chicago Police Department for their handling of the facts.
"With not one inkling of solid evidence, many believed the false witness testimony from two suspects who turned into witnesses, even though they lacked standard credibility," he wrote referring to bodybuilder brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo. "It was under-reported that one of the 'witnesses' had previously been arrested for attempted murder ending with a plea deal for aggravated battery, or that the brothers repeatedly expressed homophobia on their social media in the past. Additionally, it was never reported that they changed their story while under police interrogation."
JoJo Smollett detailed his brother's accomplishments, including the episodes of "Empire" his brother has directed and the release of his album. He also acknowledged the swell of social media support Jussie has received. He had harsh words for those who turned against his brother.
"What concerned me the most is, as the CPD continued their campaign against Jussie, I started to notice an online 'bandwagon' approaching ignoring whether there were any real facts to suggest his guilt," he wrote. "In an effort to fit in with the momentum on social media, many appeared to roast him, demean him, and laugh at a traumatic and painful ordeal.
"Jussie is as strong as iron, but following an attack like this, there is a normal and natural amount of post trauma that mostly anyone should expect to suffer. I have literally seen him violently awakening from night terrors, following the assault. Some of my siblings, as well as Jussie’s partner and closest friends have seen similar things."
JoJo concluded the essay asking the question he began with, and also reminded readers that "we live in a country that promises liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness. Jussie deserves those civil guarantees as much as everyone else."
The city of Chicago claimed in a civil lawsuit filed earlier this month that Smollett purposely attempted to mislead police by falsely describing alleged assailants who he said attacked him as white men.
Jussie Smollett case timeline: Charges dropped against actor who went from victim to suspect
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Aamer Madhani
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jussie Smollett's brother: 'Empire' star is experiencing 'post trauma' and 'night terrors'