All charges have been dropped against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, after he was accused of staging a homophobic attack in January.
Prosecutors dropped sixteen counts of disorderly conduct brought against Smollett earlier this month, after Chicago police claimed he lied to them about the attack.
Smollett, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, appeared in court in Chicago on Tuesday, where a judge reportedly sealed the case.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it had made the decision to drop the charges after reviewing the case and Smollett’s $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,” the office said in a statement.
Smollett’s attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes praised the decision, saying in a statement that the 36-year-old actor’s record had 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,” the lawyers said. “Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions.”
They continued: “The 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.”
Glandian and Brown Holmes said that Smollett is relieved to have this situation behind him,” and that the actor is “very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”
Speaking outside the court following the hearing, Smollett reiterated his innocence and thanked those who stood by him, Variety reports.
“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said, adding, “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”
Smollett said it has been “an incredibly difficult time…one of the worst of my entire life,” adding that he is a man of faith and I am 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. I just wouldn’t.”
“Now I’d like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life,” he continued. “But make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere. So again thank you for all the support. Thank you for faith and thank you to God. Bless you. Thank you very much.”
A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television, which produces Empire, refused to comment when asked by CNN.
“Many of you have reached out regarding today’s developments in the Jussie Smollett case. As of this time, the studio and network have no comment,” a spokesperson said. “I will of course let you know if that changes.”
Smollett was suspended from the Fox drama in February, with producers calling the allegations against him “very disturbing.” They confirmed that his character on the show, Jamal, won’t appear in the last two episodes of season five.
At the time of his arrest, Chicago police accused Smollett of staging the attack because he was unhappy with his Empire salary.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed he was attacked in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood by two masked men, one of whom was wearing a red hat, during the early morning hours of Jan. 29 while talking on the phone with his manager.
Smollett said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical believed to be bleach on him.
Smollett’s manager, Brandon Moore, claimed that he heard the attackers calling Smollett “Empire faggot [racial expletive]” and shouting, “This is MAGA country!”
Police initially said they were investigating the attack as a possible hate crime, before the investigation shifted to focus on Smollett himself.
In a statement, Smollett’s family said the dropping of charges meant that the actor had been vindicated.
“Jussie is a son, a brother, a partner, a champion for human rights, and a genuine soul who would never be capable of what he was falsely accused of,” the family said. “He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack. This morning truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated. All charges have been dismissed and his record expunged (cleared). The painful incidents we’ve witnessed him endure over the past 7 weeks have been heartbreaking and unjust to say the least.
“While many were quick to rush to judgement before hearing the actual truth, we are grateful that the truth about Jussie has come to light. We look forward to bringing the real perpetrators to justice. We thank God and our village for standing by us during this trying time.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a fuller statement from Smollett.
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