Actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to charges accusing him of lying to police about being attacked. (March 14)
CHICAGO— On Tuesday, prosecutors for Cook County, Illinois, dropped all charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about a hate-crime attack.
“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,” according to a statement from the office of the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, sent to USA TODAY by her spokeswoman, Tandra Simonton.
Simonton said the $10,000 bond money that Smollett is forfeiting will be given to the city. One of the penalties for filing a false police report, if there is a conviction, includes paying for the police costs of investigating a false crime report.
Smollett’s legal team also issued a statement, stressing that the charges against him were dropped, and not because of a plea deal.
“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,” according to a statement from Smollett’s lawyers Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes. “… 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 lawyers added, noting the case is a reminder of why “there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion.”
“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.”
Initial reaction from various players involved in the case ranged from shock to no comment. Fox, which airs “Empire,” told USA TODAY that “as of this time, the studio and network have no comment.”
Meanwhile, the show’s writers tweeted a photo of a CNN headline that read “Prosecutors drop all charges against actor Jussie Smollett” and wrote, “see y’all Wednesday. #empire #empirefox” along with a winking smiley face emoji.
The news comes after Smollett pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on March 14 on a 16-count indictment of lying to police. He has denied the charges.
Smollett, 36, told Chicago police that he was attacked in the middle of the night on Jan. 29, claiming that two masked men shouted homophobic and racist abuse at him, beat his face, threw bleach on him, hung a noose around his neck and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan.
Local shock, a nationwide outcry, and an urgent Chicago police investigation ensued.
While messages of support for Smollett from his famous friends, from presidential candidates and total strangers poured in over social media, police busied themselves watching hours of surveillance video and searching for two murky figures Smollett said were the attackers.
On Feb. 20, after a flurry of conflicting leaks from the Chicago Police Department about the status of the investigation, Smollett was charged by police with one Class 4 felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about the alleged attack.
He turned himself in early the next day, was arrested and briefly jailed, before being released on $100,000 bond.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid bodybuilder brothers Ola Osundairo, 27, and Abel Osundairo, 25, $3,500 to stage an attack on him in order to raise his profile and his TV salary.
Chicago Police said Johnson, who had sharply attacked Smollett for allegedly wasting police time for personal profit, was not available for comment on the charges being dropped.
Contributing: Maria Puente
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