CHICAGO (CBS) — Less than two weeks after “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime, prosecutors have dropped charges in the case.
“I would not be my mothers son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of,” Smollett said after prosecutors dropped all the charges. “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 thanked his family, friends, and fans for their prayers and support after his arrest last month.
“I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain, I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life, but I am a man of a faith and I am a man that has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives, or the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t,” he said.
He also thanked prosecutors for “attempting to do what’s right.”
“I am a man of faith, I am a man who has knowledge of my history and I would not bring my family, our lives, or the movement through a fire like this,” he said.
Cook County prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Smollett at an unscheduled hearing in the case Tuesday morning. Smollett will forfeit the $10,000 bail he posted after his arrest.
Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, said there was no agreement with prosecutors, insisting the state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges on their own.
“We believe that it was the correct result in this case. We’re very happy for this result, and we are very anxious for Jussie to get on with his career and his life, and to move forward,” Holmes said. “There is no deal. The state dismissed the charges.”
Holmes said Smollett volunteered to forfeit his $10,000 bail in the case.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office issued a statement after the hearing:
“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 stated in an email.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had recused herself from the case, so First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, a 28-year veteran prosecutor, had been the lead prosecutor on the case.
“We stand by the Chicago Police Department’s investigation, and our approval of charges,” spokeswoman Tandra Simonton stated in an email.
Meantime, Holmes chided the Chicago Police Department for holding a press conference to announce the charges against Smollett in February, accusing him of staging a fake hate crime against himself because he was upset with his salary on “Empire.” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson accused Smollett of exploiting the pain of racism to promote his career, calling the alleged attack “a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve.”
“We have nothing to say to the police department, except to investigate charges and not try their cases in the press, but to allow matters to be investigated, allow the state to investigate and to bring charges, and not to jump ahead and utilize the press to convict people before they are tried in a court of law,” Holmes said.
Sources tell CBS 2 that Johnson is furious and that he received no notification about the charges being dropped. CBS 2 is told that he will speak after the police graduation taking place.
Police sources said the department spent up to six figures in overtime investigating the Smollett case, and police believe there was a solid case against the actor for allegedly orchestrating a racist and homophobic attack against himself, and lying to investigators about it.
Smollett’s spokesperson said his record would be “fully expunged” as a result of prosecutors dropping charges.
“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 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,” spokeswoman Anne Kavanaugh stated in an email.
“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.”
Smollett’s family also released a statement. “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. He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack.”
It continued: “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.”
A judge also granted a motion to seal the case.
Smollett was accused of falsifying a police report, and lying to police. Each of the 16 counts against him covers various alleged acts that Smollett falsely described to the officers–including that he was hit by two men, that they yelled racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical on him.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the attack.
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar has reported Smollett also directed the brothers to buy the noose at a hardware store and the hat and masks at a store in Uptown. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said police have the check.
Police said the two brothers wore gloves during the staged attack, and did punch Smollett, but the scratches and bruises on Smollett’s face most likely were self-inflicted.
Police at the time said the attack was a publicity stunt because the actor was upset about his pay on the show.
Smollett has denied all the allegations.
More on Jussie Smollett:
While actor Jussie Smollett fights for his freedom, the two brothers at the center of his case were involved in a different kind of fight Thursday night.
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, nearly a week after he was indicted for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime.