What to Know
- All criminal charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett were dropped Tuesday, his legal team said
- Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct earlier this month
- Chicago police alleged he staged a hate crime attack on himself in January
Jussie Smollett's attorney said Thursday that the actor won't urge prosecutors to press charges against the two brothers he said attacked him in Chicago because he simply wants to "move on," claiming the aftermath of the alleged beating was "much harsher" than the attack itself.
"What that attack was pales in comparison to the attack on him by the mayor, by the CPD, by the press, by the public," one of Smollett's lawyers Tina Glandian said in an appearance on TODAY. All criminal charges against Smollett were dropped Tuesday, nearly two months after the actor was accused of orchestrating a hate crime attack on himself.
Glandian said the "Empire" actor's legal team "would want" Smollett to be vindicated by the brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, potentially being exposed in a court of law - but that the alleged attack Smollett claimed to have suffered wasn't as bad as what played out in the weeks after.
"I think in light of what he's been through the last two months he really just, you know, he's told me numerous times, 'I don't even care about what happened, I just want to move on,'" Glandian said, adding,"What he's been through after the fact has really been a much harsher attack than what he endured that night."
"This wasn't a very brutal attack obviously, it was frightening and it was something he did not deserve but they didn't beat him so badly," she continued. "He at this point has been victimized so much more by what's happened afterwards than what happened that night."
Glandian also said she was "not at all" concerned about a potential FBI investigation into the dismissal of charges against the "Empire" actor, a decision that was blasted by Chicago's mayor and police department, who raised questions about the circumstances of the deal.
President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice would review the case, calling it "outrageous" and "an embarrassment to our Nation!"
Both the FBI and the Department of Justice declined to comment on the case Thursday morning, according to NBC News.
"We have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper, and to my knowledge, nothing improper was done," Glandian said. She said she couldn't speak to what others did, but insisted that family, friends and associates did not reach out to the state's attorney's office at his legal team's direction.
The news that charges would be dismissed came during an "emergency court appearance" Tuesday where prosecutors not only dropped the charges against Smollett but agreed to expunge the actor's record. Prosecutors later said the charges were dismissed in exchange for Smollett's forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and his performance of community service - a contention Glandian pushed back on.
"There were no conditions and obviously there was no plea. There was no agreement in place," she said. "They did want him to forfeit the bond and that's something that we discussed with him and he initially struggled with because he didn't want the perception to be that he had done anything wrong. But at the end of the day, forfeiting $10,000 versus putting your life on hold for a year was a small cost to pay."
"The community service is something we initially raised ourselves at the initial bond hearing, saying this is somebody who's volunteered hundreds of hours, thousands of hours since he was a teenager to all sorts of organizations it's something he's always done," Glandian continued, adding, "He had to do nothing. There was no obligation, no conditions."
Smollett had pleaded not guilty to multiple disorderly conduct charges earlier this month. He was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report in February, with Chicago police alleging that he staged the attack the month before because he was "dissatisfied with his salary." A Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts.
Smollett maintained his innocence, saying that he has been "truthful and consistent on every single level since day one."
"I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of," he said, speaking briefly after his court appearance on Tuesday.
"This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life," Smollett told reporters. "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."
Smollett reported the alleged attack to police on Jan. 29, claiming to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him, according to the indictment.
Initially investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, Chicago police said new information "shifted" their approach to the case, leading them to allege that Smollett orchestrated the assault by hiring the two brothers who worked on "Empire" to execute it.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson hammered the decision to dismiss charges against him, saying they were unaware it was happening.
"At the end of the day it's Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax. Period. If he wanted to clear his name the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence," Johnson said. "I stand by the facts of what we produced. If they want to dispute those facts the place to do that is in court."
Emanuel called the decision a "whitewash of justice."
"Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else," he said.
In a statement, the Cook County State's Attorney’s office said the decision came “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," the statement read.
In an interview Wednesday, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx defended her office's decision to drop charges and denied that she had any involvement after recusing herself from the case in February.
"I did not want, as this investigation changed, for there to be any question about my impartiality so I removed myself," she said, echoing earlier statements from her office that the decision to drop charges was not uncommon in disorderly conduct cases.
"Over the course of the last two years, we've had 5,700 people go through our pretrial diversion process, people who have non-violent offenses and who have no violence in their background," Foxx said. "And so I think when people see this one particular case it feels like an outlier where in fact, it's consistent with how we treat people charged with similar offenses with the same background."
Documents obtained earlier this month via Freedom of Information Act request showed that Foxx had asked Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI. The documents also showed correspondence between Foxx, an unknown person and Tina Tchen, a one-time assistant to former President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama.
"It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case," Foxx said. "At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was a victim."
Tchen said in a statement she knew members of the Smollett family from "prior work together" and that "as a family friend," she contacted Foxx "to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public."