“Empire” network Fox and studio 20th Century Fox Television say they are “gratified” that charges against star Jussie Smollett were dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office Tuesday.
“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed,” the studio and network said in a joint statement, just over a month after executive producers decided to remove Smollett from the final two episodes of the show’s fifth season.
All criminal charges against Smollett were dropped Tuesday, after Smollett was indicted on 16 counts of filing a false police report earlier this month. He appeared in court on March 14 to plead not guilty to those disorderly conduct charges after being accused of lying to police regarding a Jan. 29 incident, in which Smollett said he was randomly attacked by two men shouting racial and homophobic slurs in his Chicago neighborhood. His next court date had previously been set for April 17.
“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 Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
Smollett — who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on Fox’s hip-hop drama — was originally charged with one felony count for filing a false police report last month. Smollett and his attorneys continuously denied any wrongdoing throughout the criminal proceedings, as police accused the actor of staging the attack himself.
“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 Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement to TheWrap Tuesday. “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 [sic].”
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” she continued. “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. Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”
Holmes added that “there was no deal” to get the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to drop the charges against the Fox star.
“There was no deal. The state dismissed the charges,” Holmes said Tuesday morning during a press conference outside the Cook County courthouse. She added that Smollett “voluntarily” agreed to forfeit his bond. “I don’t have information that the state would have as to why they dropped these charges.”
Smollett spoke shortly after Holmes, beginning by thanking all of his supporters. “I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of,” he said. “This has been an incredibly difficult time. Honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I am 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.”
He concluded: “Now I’d like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life. But make no mistake, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
Smollett attorney Mark Geragos added via Twitter: “Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dismissed by the Prosecution. Jussie’s record has been wiped clean. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify. He was a victim and was victimized again in a rush to judgment. Apologies accepted.”
The “Empire” star surrendered himself to Chicago police on Feb. 21, hours after he was formally charged. He was released from police custody later that afternoon, after posting bail and surrendering his passport following a bond hearing, and quickly returned to work on the set of the Fox drama. The following day, executive producers said they had decided to remove Smollett from the final two episodes of the show’s current season.
The Smollett family issued this statement Tuesday: “Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared. 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. 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 [sic] 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.”
A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. In mid-February, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.
Tim Baysinger and Ton Maglio contributed to this story.