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Jussie Smollett: Charges dropped against Empire actor

Posted at 11:17 AM, Mar 26, 2019

All charges against actor Jussie Smollett -- who had been accused of staging a hate crime and filing a false police report about it -- have been dropped, prosecutors and his attorneys said Tuesday.

The move is a dramatic reversal in a case in which Chicago police alleged just last month that the 36-year-old "Empire" actor hired two acquaintances to attack him in late January to promote his career .

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office didn't immediately explain why the felony disorderly conduct charges were dropped, except to say it came after reviewing the case's facts, and in view of Smollett's agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Parts of the case will be sealed, one of Smollett's attorneys said.

"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," the state's attorney's office said in a statement.

Smollett, after a brief appearance in a Chicago courtroom where his charges were dropped, told reporters Tuesday morning he was thankful to everyone who stood by him, and that he wouldn't have put his family "through a fire like this" for a lie.

"I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since Day One," Smollett said in a short statement before leaving the court building. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I've been accused of."

Smollett called himself a "man of faith" and said he wanted to move on with his life.

"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."

Smollett, who was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct , had pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied any involvement in orchestrating an attack.

His attorneys have long said a lot of misinformation about the case had been publicized. On Tuesday, they maintained that the actor indeed was attacked in Chicago on January 29, and that he has been hurt by "unfair and unwarranted actions" that made it appear as if he staged it.

Smollett said that men attacked him, using racial and homophobic slurs

Smollett reported to police that he had been attacked around 2 a.m. on January 29 in Chicago as he was walking back from getting something to eat. Smollett said he was attacked by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs, and that the incident ended with a noose around his neck and bleach poured on him.

Police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime.

After police detained two brothers who were "persons of interest" in the case in mid-February, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that authorities suspected Smollett knew the men and allegedly had paid them to stage the attack .

Police have said they believed, after interviewing the brothers, that they attacked Smollett at the actor's direction. The men were released without being charged.

Smollett's attorney: We believe the brothers attacked him

On Tuesday, Smollett attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said it's her position that the brothers -- who she said were Smollett's fitness trainers -- were Smollett's attackers.

"The two brothers have said that they attacked him," she said. "(But) we don't want to try them in the press any more than" Smollett wanted to be, she said.

Smollett's legal team says charges against him were a rush to judgment

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Holmes and another of his attorneys, Tina Glandian, said the actor 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."

"This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion," the statement reads. "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."

20th Century Fox Television declines to comment

The studio and network behind the television drama "Empire" declined to comment on the charges being dropped against Smollett.

"Many of you have reached out regarding today's developments in the Jussie Smollett case. As of this time, the studio and network have no comment. I will of course let you know if that changes," Chris Alexander, a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television and the Fox network, said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.

"Empire" producers decided to remove Smollett's character, Jamal , from the final two episodes of the season. The decision was made to "avoid further disruption on set," producers said.

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