CHICAGO (CN) – Illinois prosecutors on Tuesday dropped all criminal charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself.
Smollett faced 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct after being indicted by a Cook County grand jury earlier this month.
“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 attorney Mark Geragos said in a statement.
The actor, who is black and gay, claims two men attacked him in Chicago on a late night in January, yelling racist and homophobic slurs, hitting him and putting a rope around his neck.
Two brothers, one of whom worked with Smollett on the set of his hit show, were initially suspects in the crime.
But Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo told investigators they were paid $3,500 to participate in the alleged publicity stunt.
After police detectives thought they figured out Smollett’s motive – to get a higher salary on “Empire” – Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called the apparent hoax “just despicable,” adding the actor “dragged Chicago’s reputation through the mud.”
“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29,” Geragos said. “He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator.”
Adding to the confusion, Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx recused herself from the case, stating one of Smollett’s family members had reached out to her for help in the case.
The police union then called for an investigation of Foxx herself, asking the Justice Department to look into whether Foxx broke any laws with her involvement in pressing for the FBI to take over the investigation.
Prosecutors with the state’s attorney’s office said Tuesday that “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.”
“We stand by the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our decision to approve charges in this case,” they added.
Superintendent Johnson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel slammed the decision to drop charges at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
“Do I think justice was served? No,” Johnson said. “And I think this city is still owed an apology.”
Emanuel insisted that the attack was faked.
“He did this all in the name of self-promotion,” Emanuel said. “This is a whitewash of justice…where is the accountability in the system?”