Charges dropped against Empire actor Jussie Smollett

Author
Washington Post,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 27 March 2019, 8:28AM
Smollett was first charged in February with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.  Photo / AP
Smollett was first charged in February with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. Photo / AP

All criminal charges against Jussie Smollett have been dropped, the Cook County State's Attorney's office confirmed Tuesday. The Empire actor was indicted earlier this month for allegedly lying to Chicago police about a hate-crime attack.

"I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one," Smollett told reporters in a Chicago courthouse. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life."

The office of the Cook County State's Attorney said in a statement Tuesday that "after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet'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."

Smollett's attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, told reporters inside of the courthouse that the actor voluntarily forfeited his bond and that there was no deal made with prosecutors.

Actor Jussie Smollett talks to the media before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped. Photo / AP
Actor Jussie Smollett talks to the media before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped. Photo / AP

"We have nothing to say to the police department except to investigate charges and not try their cases in the press," she said. "Allow matters to be investigated, allow the state to investigate and to bring charges and not to jump and utilise the press to convict people before they are tried in a court of law."

Smollett's case, which began when the actor said he had been attacked by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs in January, captivated the nation's attention as the investigation took several bizarre turns in full public view.

Smollett was first charged in February with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The actor, who is black and gay, told police in January that he had been attacked around 2am in the Streeterville neighbourhood by two people who yelled racist and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an unidentified chemical substance on him.

The actor said at least one of his attackers had invoked President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan, yelling "This is MAGA country" during the attack.

Smollett's allegations drew widespread media attention, and the actor received messages of support from celebrities and advocacy organizations. In mid-February, the actor appeared on Good Morning America, where he told Robin Roberts that he would "never be the man that this did not happen to."

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago after prosecutors dropped all charges against him. Photo / AP
Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago after prosecutors dropped all charges against him. Photo / AP

But days later, police announced that the trajectory of the investigation had changed. On February 20, Smollett was named a suspect in the case, and he was arrested the following morning. At a subsequent media briefing, police said Smollett had fabricated the story of a brutal hate crime because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the Fox drama.

The charges against Smollett heightened tensions in Chicago, where the city's top police official issued an extraordinary public rebuke of the actor, saying Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career." Residents also voiced frustrations with the police department, criticising how it had poured resources into investigating Smollett's claims in a city of high homicide rates.

Some remained sceptical of the findings presented by the Chicago Police Department, which already had a fragile relationship with the black community in the city. As recent as 2017, federal investigators concluded police had routinely violated the constitutional rights of Chicago's residents, particularly those of color.

Smollett has been adamant in denying wrongdoing, with his attorneys accusing investigators of presenting an "organised law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system."

The latest development, which arrived after Smollett made an emergency court appearance Tuesday morning, raises questions about what led prosecutors to drop the charges and what happened on the night in question.

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