Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett said Tuesday that all charges have dropped against him after his claim of a racist and homophobic attack — and allegations that he staged the attack — caused a national uproar.
All 16 felony counts against Smollett were dismissed Tuesday morning during an emergency court hearing in Chicago, where he agreed to perform community service and surrender his $10,000 bond.
Smollet, 36, had been accused of lying to police when he told them two men unleashed a racist and homophobic attack on him Jan. 29 in Chicago.
He was charged earlier this month of 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for making a false report.
His attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement that the actor’s record “has been wiped clean.”
“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th,” the statement read. “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 judgment.
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” the attorneys said. “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.”
Authorities had accused the Black and openly gay actor of hiring two brothers of Nigerian descent to stage an attack against him as he left a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 29.
At the time, Smollett claimed his attackers shouted racist and anti-gay slurs, poured an unknown liquid on him and put a noose around his neck. The assailants also made references to “MAGA,” an allusion to President Donald Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan during his 2016 campaign, the actor said.
As Smollett’s story faced increased scrutiny, initial speculation was that he staged the attack out of fear his character was about to be written off the show, but police said he was unhappy with his salary and schemed to get a pay raise and boost his career.
The two brothers, who had previous connections to Smollett, began cooperating with authorities after police raided their home last month. The two men —Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo — told police Smollett paid them $3,500 to participate in the hoax.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson slammed Smollett’s claim as “publicity stunt” that hampers legitimate victims, adding that the actor “took advantage of pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
As a result of the charges, Smollet’s role on the Fox series as the gay character Jamal Lyon was cut from the final episodes of the fifth season.
Attorney Mark Geragos, who also has represented Smollett, said in a statement to NBC News this month that the indictment was “prosecutorial overkill.”
“This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records,” Geragos said.