Chicago prosecutors have dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, the black and gay actor accused of paying two men $3,500 to fake a hate crime against him.
“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 is a just and appropriate resolution to the case,” the Cook County State Attorney’s Office said in a statement to ABC News.
Prosecutors, however, did not explain how the charges came to be so abruptly dropped, and the record has now been sealed.
“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett told reporters in a press conference. “I would not be my mother’s son if I had done one drop of what I was accused of. This has been an incredibly difficult time, one of the worst in my life.”
Chicago police announced on Feb. 21 that Smollett had paid two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, to attack him because he was upset that he wasn’t getting paid enough for his role on the Fox series “Empire.” A Cook County grand jury returned a 16-count indictment, including numerous felonies, against Smollett on May 10. The most serious offense was for filing a false police report, a Class 4 felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
After the charges were dropped on Tuesday, Smollett’s lawyer Patricia Brown Holmes told reporters that the $3,500 payment to the Osundairo brothers was “for nutrition and training.” “They were his trainers,” Holmes said. Holmes didn’t deny, however, that the Osundairo brothers attacked him.
“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29. 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,” Holmes and Smollett’s other lawyer, Tina Glandian, said in a statement.
The news is yet another twist in a bizarre case, which stemmed from an alleged attack on the streets of Chicago one night in late January. Smollett alleged that two men — who shouted “MAGA country” alongside racist and homophobic slurs — beat him up, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. Weeks later, police said that Smollett paid two brothers to whom he was connected through his work on “Empire,” to stage his attack.
“This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and didn’t deserve,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters at the time. Police sources told CBS2 on Tuesday that the news of the charges being dropped blindsided Johnson, who is reportedly “furious.”
Salacious details, from unnamed sources familiar with the Chicago police investigation into Smollett’s case, made their way into local news reports, including the arrest of the Osundairo brothers.
Earlier this month, Chicago police launched an investigation to determine the source of the leaks in the department.
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” Smollett’s lawyers continued in their statement. “This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion.”
Smollett’s family also released a statement. “Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared,” they wrote. “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.”
Holmes said that Smollett is forfeiting his $10,000 bond but did not say who the beneficiary of the bond would be. In response to a question about why he was forfeiting his bond, Holmes replied: “Plenty of people forfeit their bond in situations like this.”
“He is someone who has dedicated his life to public service since he was 15,” Holmes said. “He has taken the city of Chicago as his home. He is a good, solid citizen of the city of Chicago.”
Correction 3/26 12:52 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story incorrectly state that Smollett was forfeiting $100,000 for his bond. A judge had set his bond at $100,000, but Smollett only had to pay 10 percent. The story has been updated.
Cover image: Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty in Cook County court to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, maintaining his innocence amid allegations as detailed below that he faked an attack against himself. (zz/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2018 5/14/18 Jussie Smollett at The 2018 Fox Network Upfront in New York City.)