Prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against actor Jussie Smollett Tuesday, just two weeks after he pleaded not guilty to 16 counts related to allegedly lying to police about being a victim of a homophobic and racist hate crime.
“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,” Smollett’s lawyers said in a statement following the surprise reversal by prosecutors. “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 judgement.”
Smollett, who has always denied lying to police or orchestrating the attack, was free on $100,000 bond. “I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he told reporters Tuesday.
“We believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said Tuesday. The decision came “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.”
The 36-year-old actor has said he was attacked by two men while walking in Chicago. The men, Smollett said, yelled racist and homophobic slurs, hit him, put a noose around his neck, and said to him, “This is MAGA country.” The Chicago Tribune explains what happened next:
Police initially treated the incident as a hate crime, but their focus turned to Smollett after two brothers who were alleged to have been his attackers told police that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with a promise of an additional $500 later.
Police pieced together much of their evidence by reviewing footage from about 55 police and private surveillance cameras showing the brothers’ movements before and after the attack.
It’s unclear what evidence emerged that led prosecutors to drop the case.