CHICAGO - Prosecutors on Tuesday abruptly dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor who was accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago, his attorneys said.
Smollett’s attorneys said his record had “been wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had “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 was being accused of,” he told reporters after a court hearing. He thanked the state of Illinois “for attempting to do what’s right.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted the decision to dismiss the case. Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors’ office offered no detailed explanation.
“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 statement from spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
Smollett paid $10,000 in bail to get out of jail after his arrest.
Among the unanswered questions was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack and whether new evidence emerged that altered their view of events.
Smollett was accused of falsely reporting to authorities that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago. Authorities said he made the report because he was unhappy with his pay on “Empire” and believed it would promote his career.
The actor, who is black and gay, plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
He reported that he was assaulted on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.
Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Smollett allegedly paid the men $3,500.
The men are brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on “Empire.” An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.
Police have also said that before the attack, Smollett sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where “Empire” is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment on the investigation.
Some key moments in the story:
-- Smollett receives a racist and homophobic threatening letter at the studio in Chicago where "Empire" is filmed. Police later say that they believe Smollett sent the letter himself.
-- Jussie Smollett tells police he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago while out getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2 a.m. The actor says the men used racial and homophobic slurs, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown substance" on him. Police say Smollett, who is black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in "MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan that some Trump critics have decried as racist and discriminatory.
-- Chicago police say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack. Police obtain and release images of two people they would like to question, calling them "persons of interest."
-- Reports of an assault on Smollett draw outrage and support for him on social media from some politicians and celebrities.
-- Trump tells reporters at the White House that he saw a story the night before about Smollett, saying, "It doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned."
-- Smollett's family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime. Smollett's family says he "has told the police everything" and "his story has never changed," disputing assertions leveled on social media that he had been less than cooperative and changed his story.
-- Smollett issues a statement telling people he's OK and thanking them for their support. He says he's working with authorities and has been "100 percent factual and consistent on every level."
-- Smollett gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.
-- Chicago police say Smollett turned over some, but not all, of the phone records detectives requested as part of their investigation. Police say the heavily redacted files aren't sufficient. Smollett says he redacted information to protect the privacy of contacts and people not relevant to the attack.
-- Chicago police pick up two men they identify as Nigerian brothers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on their return from Nigeria after police learn at least one worked on "Empire." Police question the brothers and search the apartment where the men live.
-- Chicago police say local media reports that the attack against Smollett was a hoax are unconfirmed.
-- Producers of "Empire" dispute media reports that Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show.
-- Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielimi says the two "persons of interest" are now considered suspects. He says the men -- identified previously by police as two brothers from Nigeria -- are in custody but have not been charged with a crime.
-- Chicago police release the two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for nearly 48 hours. A police spokesman says the two are no longer considered suspects and that investigators have new evidence to consider as a result of questioning them.
-- Police say the investigation has "shifted" after detectives question the two brothers about the attack and release them without charges. Police say they've requested a follow-up interview with Smollett. Smollett's lawyers say the actor feels "victimized" by reports that he played a role in the assault.
-- Smollett's account of what happened is met with some skepticism on social media in the wake of the new developments.
-- Chicago police say they're still seeking a follow-up interview with Smollett after receiving new information that "shifted" their investigation of a reported attack on the "Empire" actor. Guglielimi says police reached out to Smollett's attorney, but says an interview has not been conducted.
-- Guglielimi declines to address reports that a grand jury may hear evidence in the case, saying: "We're not confirming, denying or commenting on anything until we can talk to him and we can corroborate some information that we've gotten."
-- Chicago police investigate tip that on the night Smollett reported being attacked, he was in an elevator of his apartment building with the two Nigerian brothers. Police later dismiss the tip, saying it's not credible based on video evidence.
-- Chicago's top prosecutor, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, recuses herself from the investigation. Her office says the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution ... to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case." No details were provided. Foxx later says the reason for the recusal is that she had conversations with a Smollett family member after the incident was reported in late January.
-- Chicago police say Smollett is officially suspected of filing a false police report when he said he was a victim of a racist, homophobic attack in downtown Chicago in January. Police also say that two brothers who were questioned about the attack were testifying before a grand jury and detectives were presenting evidence to the grand jury.
-- Chicago police say the Cook County State's Attorney has charged Smollett with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report that he was attacked by two masked men. Police detectives were contacting Smollett's attorneys to arrange his surrender for arrest.
-- Chicago police say Smollett turned himself in to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, which could bring up to three years in prison.
-- Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the two brothers to help him.
-- Producers of "Empire" say Jussie Smollett's character will be removed from the final two episodes of this season.
-- A Cook County grand jury returns a 16-count indictment charging Smollett with falsely reporting an offense.
-- Attorneys for "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett say charges alleging he lied to police about attack have been dropped.
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