Prosecutors are dropping all charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett. The surprise reversal announced Tuesday appears to clear Smollett of allegations that he filed a false police report earlier this year when the actor, who is gay and black, claimed that he was attacked in a possible hate crime.
Smollett, who appeared in court Tuesday, was indicted last month by a grand jury in Cook County, Ill., on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for the incident. Each count would have carried a possible penalty of up to three years in prison.
Now, Smollett’s attorneys say the actor’s record has been “wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him.”
“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,” attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement released by a spokesperson.
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” they continued. “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.”
A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department referred all questions to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, which cited Smollett’s community service in explaining its decision to drop the charges.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’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 office said in a statement emailed to NPR.
Prosecutors added that they stood by the police investigation and prosecutors’ decision “to approve charges in this case.”
Smollett himself addressed the press after his court hearing Tuesday.
“I’ve 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 said, in his first public comments since an interview last month on Good Morning America.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time. Honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I’m a man of faith and I’m 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.”