In an unexpected move, prosecutors have dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett for reporting an alleged hoax hate crime attack.
The shock decision was announced in a terse statement after Smollett appeared in court on Tuesday.
“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,” said the state’s attorney’s office.
An emotional Smollett addressed journalists after the hearing and once again proclaimed his innocence. “I have been truthful and consistent from day one,” he said.
“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of even one drop of what I have been accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly, one of the worst in my entire life,” he said. “But I am a man of 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.”
Smollett continued: “Now I’d like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistake I will always continue to fight for justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
Details of the hearing have not been made public because the judge in the case sealed the proceedings. The Chicago Police Department is furious at the development. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson accused the actor of “hiding behind secrecy and a brokered deal to circumvent the judicial system.” He added: “I stand behind the detectives’ investigation.”
Smollett agreed to surrender the $10,000 he had paid as bail but his lawyers insisted that this was not part of a deal.
They said in a statement: “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 judgment.” Jussie’s family added that, “This morning truth has prevailed and (Jussie) has been vindicated.”
Smollett had been facing up to 38 years in jail for allegedly lying to police about the attack. He was accused of paying two men to stage a racist and homophobic assault on him.
The openly gay Smollett has been playing the groundbreaking role of Jamal Lyon, the gay son of entertainment giant Lucious in Empire, since 2015. He had become an activist and was seen as a role model for young, especially African American, LGBTQ people.