All criminal charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett were dropped by Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday (March 26) in the case tied to the actor’s alleged role in a Jan. 29 incident in which he claimed he was attacked by two men.
Smollett was facing 16 charges in the case, but according to a statement from his lawyers, all criminal disorderly conduct charges were dropped and his “record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him.” Smollett pleaded not guilty to the counts two weeks ago.
The statement from attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes adds, “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. 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. 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.”
According to TMZ, Smollett will surrender the $10,000 bond in the case as a condition of the agreement. “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 according to the Chicago Tribune. The paper noted that it was unclear why Smollett was required to forfeit his bond, which would ordinarily be returned to him or his lawyers; a spokesperson for Smollett had not returned requests for comment on the bond surrender.
Smollett was facing trial after claiming two unidentified masked men attacked him early on the morning of Jan. 29 in Chicago (where Empire is filmed), hurling racial and homophobic epithets and pouring bleach on him and putting a rope around his neck.
The investigation into the case appeared to reveal that Smollett, who is black and gay, enlisted the help of two other black men — one of whom reportedly worked on the show with him — to stage the attack because he was reportedly unhappy with his salary; Smollett has denied those allegations and maintained his innocence all along.
It was unclear why prosecutors dropped the case just weeks after Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson told Good Morning America that there’s “a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet” in the case, including what he referred to as “a lot of physical evidence, video evidence and testimony that just simply does not support his version of what happened.” Johnson earlier claimed that Smollett had orchestrated the attack in order to “take advantage of the pain and anger of racism and promote his career.”
The attorney for the two men questioned and then released as part of the investigation, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, said earlier this month that the men regret their involvement in the alleged scheme. Lawyer Gloria Schmidt said that the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping them in their careers, but that they have since expressed “tremendous reget” for their part in the alleged scheme.
Smollett gave a brief statement on Tuesday morning shortly after the news broke of the dismissal of the charges, saying, “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of… I’d like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life, but make no mistakes I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
Smollett’s family released a statement in the wake of the news as well. “Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared. Jussie is a son, a brother, a partner, a champion for human rights, and a genuine soul who would never be capable of what he was falsely accused of,” they said. “He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack. This morning truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated. All charges have been dismissed and his record expunged (cleared). The painful incidents we’ve witnessed him endure over the past 7 weeks have been heartbreaking and unjust to say the least. While many were quick to rush to judgement before hearing the actual truth, we are grateful that the truth about Jussie has come to light. We look forward to bringing the real perpetrators to justice. We thank God and our village for standing by us during this trying time.”
After initially voicing their support for Smollett, the show’s producers recently explained their decision to cut the actor from the final two episodes of the current season. “It was a very difficult decision, but I think in terms of allowing the cast and the crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, and, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make,” executive producer Brett Mahoney said.
Shortly after Smollett addressed the dropped charges, the show’s studio and network, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, released a statement. “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.”