Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Jussie Smollett; "I've Been Truthful and Consistent," Actor Says
The 'Empire' star was back in Chicago court Tuesday morning for what his representatives called an emergency appearance.
In a shocking reversal amid an ongoing Hollywood saga, charges have been dropped against actor Jussie Smollett, his legal team told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.
Smollett was back in Chicago court Tuesday morning for what his representatives called an emergency appearance.
"Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him," his lawyers said in a statement to THR. "Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. 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 judgment."
The statement continued, "Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. This 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. Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career."
Shortly after the charges were dropped, Smollett said in front of media at the courthouse, "I just made a couple notes. First of all, 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, and who have showed me so much love. No one will ever know how much that has meant to me and I will be forever grateful. I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every 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."
He added, "This has been an incredibly difficult time. Honestly one of the worst of my entire life. 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. I just wouldn't."
Smollett concluded, "Now I'd like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere. So again thank you for all the support. Thank you for [your] faith and thank you to God. Bless you. Thank you very much."
The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said in a statement to THR: "After reviewing all of 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 to this case."
Chicago police held a press briefing with Mayor Rahm Emanuel shortly after the news broke on Tuesday. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Emanuel stood by the police investigation and insisted Smollett is guilty. Emanuel called the dropped charges a "whitewash of justice" during the heated briefing.
"Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared," said the Smollett family in a statement to THR. "Jussie is a son, a brother, a partner, a champion for human rights, and a genuine soul who would never be capable of what he was falsely accused of. He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack."
The statement continued, "This morning truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated. All charges have been dismissed and his record expunged (cleared). The painful incidents we've witnessed him endure over the past 7 weeks have been heartbreaking and unjust to say the least. While many were quick to rush to judgment before hearing the actual truth, we are grateful that the truth about Jussie has come to light. We look forward to bringing the real perpetrators to justice. We thank God and our village for standing by us during this trying time."
The Empire actor was initially charged with disorderly conduct via a class 4 felony false report allegation and later indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly lying to authorities about an attack that took place in January. Smollett claimed he was targeted by two President Trump supporters and beaten because he is an African-American gay man.
Fox said in a statement concerning Tuesday's developments, "Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed."
Chicago detectives later determined that the actor allegedly set up the highly publicized attack to further his career. He was subsequently arrested and charged. Smollett was out on $100,000 bail. He agreed to forfeit $10,000, the 10 percent that was necessary to secure his initial release.
According to police, two brothers helped Smollett orchestrate the faux assault and then worked with detectives to build the department's case against the actor.
Smollett entered a plea of not guilty on March 14 in a Chicago courtroom on charges he lied to police when he reported he was the victim of a hate crime earlier this year.
The actor and his attorneys have denied he had anything to do with the assault other than being the victim of a hate crime.
Smollett is represented by Los Angeles-based attorney Mark J. Geragos, as well as local Chicago attorney Ron Safer. Geragos, whose past client roster includes Michael Jackson and Colin Kaepernick, on Monday was named by multiple outlets as the unidentified co-conspirator in a criminal complaint charging lawyer Michael Avenatti with attempting to extort Nike for $25 million.
Attorney Patricia Brown Holmes from the Riley Safer law firm spoke during Tuesday's press briefing.
The writers on Fox drama Empire, which is currently airing its fifth season, shared a screengrab of the news on Twitter with a note that read, "See y'all Wednesday" (the night Empire airs).
Smollett had been cut from the forthcoming final two episodes of the season following his arrest. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show, and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season," said the show's executive producers at the time.
Lee Daniels, the creator of Empire, opened up about the "pain and anger" on set over the Smollett case just last week.
March 26, 10:10 a.m. Updated with statement from Fox.