Prosecutors drop all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

Attorneys for Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that all criminal charges against the "Empire" actor and singer have been dropped. Smollett had been charged with falsifying a police report by claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.

The judge also granted a motion to seal the record in the case, Patricia Brown Holmes, a Smollett lawyer, told reporters inside the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago. She also said the actor voluntarily agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond to the city of Chicago.

Smollett made a brief statement after a hearing.

"I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, who have supported me, who have shown me so much love," Smollett said. "I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I've been accused of.”

"This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life," he continued. "But I am a man of faith and I am a man that has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives or the movement through a fire like this."

Smollett added: “I would like to thank my legal counsel and the state of Illinois for attempting to do what is right.”

Earlier Tuesday, Smollett’s attorneys announced in a statement that all criminal charges had been dropped and his record “has been wiped clean.”

"Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify,” the statement said. “He was a victim. He was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.

"Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” they added. “The entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result."

In a separate statement, prosecutors noted the actor’s record of community service and agreement to forfeit his bond.

"After reviewing all the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett's volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution," the statement from the Cook County Attorney's Office said.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision, saying the $10,000 bond "doesn't come close to what the city spent in resources" in investigating Smollett's claims.

Emanuel accused Smollett of using hate-crime legislation to “self-promote” his career.

“This is a whitewash of justice,” Emanuel said. “Where is the accountability in the system?”

Jussie Smollett arrives at a news conference after a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago on Tuesday. (Photo: Amanda Seitz/AP)

Smollett was arrested by police in Chicago on Feb. 21, three weeks after the alleged attack.

The actor told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was leaving a Subway restaurant near his apartment in Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. Smollett, who is black and gay, initially said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck. He claimed the alleged attackers yelled “MAGA country” — a reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

The actor said he sustained injuries to his clavicle bone and bruised ribs during the attack.

Police later identified and questioned two “persons of interest” captured on surveillance video near the scene around the time of the alleged attack. The men, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 by check to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a threatening letter — addressed to him and sent to the Fox set where “Empire” is filmed — did not get enough attention.

The crude letter was sent in an envelope that contained a powdery substance and had “MAGA” written on it. The substance was later determined to be aspirin. Police said that they believe Smollett sent the letter to himself.

According to Smollett, the $3,500 check was for nutrition and training advice.

The actor was indicted with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly falsifying a police report, a Class 4 felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison. Smollett pleaded not guilty, posted bond and was released. A judge ordered the 36-year-old to surrender his passport.

Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building after his court appearance in Chicago on March 14. (Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

The Smollett case garnered national attention.

At a press conference the day of his arrest, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson tore into the actor over the alleged scheme.

“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said. “I’m left hanging my head and asking why. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose?”

Johnson was asked by reporters what he would consider justice in Smollett’s case.

“Absolute justice would be an apology to this city that he smeared, admitting what he did,” he said.

Johnson reiterated that stance Tuesday.

“Do I think justice was served? No,” Johnson said. “I think this city is still owed an apology.”

Johnson told reporters that he stands behind his investigation, and that he found out about the charges being dropped "the same time you all did."

Jussie Smollett leaves jail after posting bond on Feb. 21. (Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Two weeks after the reported assault, Smollett appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” telling anchor Robin Roberts he was heartbroken when he found out people were doubting his story.

“Who the f*** would make something up like this?” he asked. “I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate. And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more. A lot more. And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now.”

“I think people need to hear the truth,” he added. “’Cause everybody has their own idea. Some are healing and some are hurtful, but I just want young people, young members of the LGBTQ community — young black children — to know how strong that they are.”

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