In a shocking reversal, prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett who faced up to 48 years behind bars for allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack.
Smollett’s lawyers Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes made a surprise announcement on Wednesday (Australian time) that Smollett’s record “has been wiped clean”.
“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,” his lawyers said in a statement.
The decision to exonerate Smollett comes less than two weeks after the 36-year-old pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it had reviewed the case’s facts, taking into consideration Smollett’s agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond.
“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,” it said in a statement.
Following a brief court appearance where his charges where dropped, Smollett told reporters he had been “truthful and consistent on every single level since Day One”.
Before leaving the court building, Smollett said he wouldn’t have put his family “through a fire like this” for a lie and described himself as a “man of faith”.
“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”
Smollett said he wanted to move on with his life.
“I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, who have supported me.”
‘I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain’: Actor Jussie Smollett thanks his family and supporters after having charges dropped from alleged hoax https://t.co/fwLPA4KiRr pic.twitter.com/YjXFhHsfon
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 26, 2019
Police and prosecutors originally said the black and gay actor falsely reported to authorities that he was attacked around 2am on January 29 in downtown Chicago because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show and to promote his career.
Smolett, 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 had been attacked 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. Police said Smollett paid the men $US3500 ($A5000).
The men are brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on Empire. A lawyer 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.