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Criminal Charges Against Jussie Smollett Have Been Dropped

The Empire star had been facing more than a dozen felony counts for allegedly filing a false police report, but the criminal case against him was suddenly dropped Tuesday.

Last updated on March 26, 2019, at 12:27 p.m. ET

Posted on March 26, 2019, at 11:28 a.m. ET

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times / Chicago Sun-Times via AP

All criminal charges against Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who was charged by Chicago authorities for filing a fake police report alleging he was attacked by two men in late January, were dropped Tuesday.

The stunning development occurred during an emergency hearing in a Chicago courtroom earlier in the morning.

“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’s [sic] 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 to this case,” a spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear why the charges against the actor were dropped, but the spokesperson added that the State’s Attorney’s Office stood by the police investigation and its original decision to pursue charges in the case.

First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, who took over the case after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself, also told the New York Times his office was not exonerating Smollett.

“We work to prioritize violent crime and the drivers of violent crime. Public safety is our number one priority,” he said. “I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety.”

Smollett worked his two days of community service at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, where he reportedly worked in the bookstore, broadcast studio and spoke to students and parents.

Smollett’s attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement that their client’s record had been “wiped clean.”

“He was a victim who 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 judgement,” the attorneys said.

Holmes added that Smollett had voluntarily agreed to forfeit the $10,000 bail he had paid to be released from jail in February.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Smollett maintained his innocence.

“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”

The actor also thanked his supporters and said he wanted to move forward with his life. After exiting the building, he posed for a selfie with a fan as media swarmed around him.

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Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had told media in February that Smollett arranged the fake attack to gain public sympathy that he could then leverage in salary negotiations with Fox.

Flanked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday, Johnson said he only found out the charges were being dropped in media reports. Both men insisted that Smollett would have been found guilty in court.

“It’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax. Period,” Johnson said. “If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so everyone could see the evidence.”

Emanuel was even stronger in his condemnation.

“This is an unbelievable — not just whitewash of justice, this is a person now who has been let off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions,” he said.

Though authorities had said Smollett orchestrated the alleged attack on himself with the aid of two other men, the actor has maintained his innocence.

Smollett said he was attacked in Chicago by two men in the early morning hours, alleging the men poured a bleachlike chemical on him, put a noose around his neck, and yelled racist and anti-gay slurs.

Smollett’s Feb. 21 mugshot.
Chicago Police Department via AP

Smollett’s Feb. 21 mugshot.

After weeks of high-profile investigation, Smollett was charged with filing a false police report in late February. Weeks later, he was indicted by a grand jury on 16 further felony counts. He pleaded not guilty on March 14.

In their statement Tuesday, Glandian and Holmes said the “entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion.”

“It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect,” they said. “Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.”

The attorneys said Smollett is “relieved” to have this all behind him and “is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”

In a statement through Smollett’s publicist, the actor’s family said he was “an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared.”

“He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack,” they said. “This morning truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated.”

Representatives for 20th Century Fox, which produces Empire, said they were standing by Smollett.

“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence,” they said, “and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.”

Tanya Chen and Krystie Lee Yandoli contributed reporting.

CORRECTION

The bond payment Smollett was forfeiting was $10,000. An earlier version of this post misstated that amount as $100,000, which was the full bond set by the judge, though Smollett was only required to pay 10% of that sum in order to be released.

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