More than a dozen felony charges levied against out gay “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging a fake homophobic and racist attack have been dropped, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced on March 26.
The sudden about-face came just weeks after Smollett was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying about how he was attacked by a pair of men who he said called him homophobic and racial slurs, wrapped a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical substance on him.
The attorney’s office stressed that Smollett was not exonerated in the case, which was sealed, but admitted that the evidence — and his willingness to engage in community service — drew them to conclude that dropping charges “is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
“The charges were dropped in return for Mr. Smollett’s agreement to do community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond to the City of Chicago,” the office added.
Smollett was arrested in February after he was accused of enlisting the help of two men who were to “attack” him before going on to lie about what happened. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges after a grand jury indicted him.
Prior to the alleged staged attack, Smollett also is accused of having sent a fake homophobic letter to himself in an effort to draw attention. Josh Margolin of ABC News reported that Smollett is still under investigation by the FBI and the US Postal Inspection Service over whether or not he sent a threatening letter to himself.
But on the day the existing charges were dropped, Smollett’s attorneys claimed their client did nothing wrong, that he was a “victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator,” and that his record record was finally “wiped clean.” The 36-year-old actor added that he had been “truthful” throughout the entire process and that the entire scandal was an “incredibly difficult time” for him.
The dropping of charges drew the ire of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who both suggested that Smollett managed to get away with his crimes and that the state’s attorney is treating the actor with a special kind of privilege not afforded to everyday folks.
“He used the laws of the hate crime legislation that all of us through the years have put on the books to stand up to be the values that embody what we believe in,” Emanuel said in a press conference after the news broke. “This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clearer.”
Emanuel added that Smollett “has been let off scot-free with no sense of accountability of the moral and ethical wrong of his actions.”
Johnson expressed outrage over the sealing of the case, saying that he’d “never hide behind a brokered deal and secrecy.” At the end of the day, he said, “it was Smollett who committed this hoax.”
Smollett said he plans on getting back to work and moving on with his life after being cleared of the charges following a months-long, highly-publicized case.
“But make no mistake, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere,” he claimed.