Chicago, IL – Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday announced they had dropped all charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, after previously charging the actor with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hoax hate crime on himself and reporting it to police.
"After reviewing all 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," said Tandra Simonton, chief communications officer of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office announced on March 8 that the grand jury had returned a 16-count indictment that said Smollett had lied to police twice, WLS reported.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct on Feb. 20.
The 36-year-old actor turned himself in at the Chicago Police Department’s 1st District at 5 a.m. on Feb. 21, to face felony disorderly conduct charges for filing a false police report. He was released on bond later the same day.
Chicago police have said they believe Smollett lied when he told police he was jumped by two masked men as he was walking home from a Subway restaurant in his Streeterville neighborhood in the early hours of Jan. 29.
He said the men beat him, and hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Smollett told police that the men threw an unknown substance on him and put a noose around his neck before they ran off.
His manager told police that he was on the phone with his client at the time of the attack and heard Smollett’s attackers say “This is MAGA country” while they were assaulting the actor, NBC News reported.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained at a press conference the day of Smollett’s arrest that that police considered the actor a victim up until Ola and Abel Osundairo returned from Nigeria to Chicago and were taken into police custody, and then the investigation “spun in a totally different direction.”
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt up until that 47th hour. But when we discovered the actual motive, quite frankly, it pissed everybody off,” he explained.
He said the brothers told police that Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 after they returned from a planned trip to Nigeria.
“We have the check that he used to pay them,” Superintendent Johnson said.
He said police have obtained phone records that “clearly indicate” Smollett and the Osundairo brothers talked to each other quite a bit before and after the staged attack, as well as while the brothers were out of the country.
Superintendent Johnson also said that Smollett had beaten himself up before he went to the hospital.
“The brothers had on gloves during the staged attacked where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face was most likely self-inflicted,” the superintendent explained.
He said that he believed the actor wanted the faked attack caught on camera, but the particular camera he chose to perform in front of wasn’t pointed the right direction.
The superintendent said chasing down bogus leads “put out in the universe” by the media wasted a lot of the police’s time during the investigation.
He said detectives interviewed more than 100 people, and located 35 police surveillance cameras and 20 private-sector security cameras along the route the Smollett claimed he took the night of the attack.
“These detectives deserve all the credit in the world for carefully analyzing the leads and evidence for weeks before coming to their conclusion,” Superintendent Johnson said.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to the initials felony disorderly conduct charge for having filed a fake police report. He claimed the $3,500 check to the Osundairo brothers was for training and nutritional guidance.
Attorneys for Smollett released a statement just moments after Judge Steven Watkins allowed the dismissal on March 26, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"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,” the statement said. “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 judgement.”
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” the attorneys’ statement continued. “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.”
Smollett had been free on a $100,000 bond prior to the dismissal, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“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,” the statement read.