In a stunning move on Tuesday morning, prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against the “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who had been accused of staging a hate crime attack in the city’s downtown in January.
“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 Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
It did not elaborate on whether any new information had surfaced that weakened the case against Mr. Smollett or whether prosecutors had simply changed their mind about pursuing the case. Mr. Smollett’s bond payment was $10,000.
In a statement, Anne Kavanagh, a spokeswoman for Mr. Smollett’s lawyers, said: “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. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on Jan. 29. 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 judgment.”
The statement went on: “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.”
[Read more about Jussie Smollett here.]
Mr. Smollett had told the police that the attack happened in the early morning by two men who taunted him with homophobic and racial slurs and yelled “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. The assailants, according to Mr. Smollett, tied a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him. He was briefly treated at a hospital that day.
Skepticism surrounding the attack occurred from the start, even as several A-list celebrities and advocacy groups expressed their support for Mr. Smollett, painting the attack as another example of a nationwide rise in hate crimes. But the police, in their investigation, had trouble finding surveillance video of the attack or witnesses.
The investigation eventually focused on two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, who knew Mr. Smollett. They initially said they were unaware why they were considered persons of interest in the investigation, but according to the police, they later told investigators that Mr. Smollett had paid them to stage the attack on him as a way to gain publicity because he was unhappy with his “Empire” salary. Mr. Smollett denied the brothers’ accounts.
Mr. Smollett, who had been indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct related to the filing of a false report, was removed from the rest of the current season of “Empire.” It is unclear what Fox, the network that airs “Empire,” will do now; it did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department referred questions to the State’s Attorney’s Office.
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