The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said Tuesday that all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett have been dropped. The “Empire” actor was indicted earlier this month for allegedly lying to Chicago police about a hate-crime attack.
“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,” a statement from the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney reads, “we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
In a statement, Smollett’s lawyer, Patricia Brown Holmes, said: “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.”
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 2 a.m. in the Streeterville neighborhood 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.”
But days later, police announced that the trajectory of the investigation had changed. On Feb. 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, criticizing how it had poured resources into investigating Smollett’s claims in a city of high homicide rates.
Some remained skeptical 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 “organized 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.