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, speaking just moments after prosecutors dropped all charges against him in Chicago, said the past few months have been "one of the worst" times of his life."
"I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one," Smollett said outside the courtroom Tuesday. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of."
"I would not bring my family, our lives, or the movement through a fire like this," he added. "I just wouldn't." (Read his full statement below)
Smollett's attorneys said the "Empire" actor is ready to get back to work and move on with his life.
"We have nothing to say to the police department except to investigate their charges and not try their case in the press," said attorney Patricia Brown Holmes. "Not to jump ahead and utilize the press to convict people before they are tried in a court of law."
The Chicago Police Department called the prosecution's decision a "slap in our face."
"It’s a punch in the gut. Is absolutely a punch in the gut," said Commander Ed Wodnicki. "We worked closely throughout our three-week investigation to get to the point where we arrested the offender. For the state's attorney at this point to dismiss charges without discussing this with us at all is just shocking."
Police said they were "prepared for trial" and have a "rock solid case."
"We have overwhelming evidence," Wodnicki said.
A visibly angry Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the decision a "whitewash of justice."
"Where is the accountability in the system?" Emanuel said during a press conference. "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."
The 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."
State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case in February, with documents obtained earlier this month via Freedom of Information Act request showing that Foxx had asked Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI.
Meanwhile, Smollett's family said in a statement the actor 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," the family's statement read. "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."
In a statement, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said Smollett "has always maintained his innocentand we are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed."
The latest development in the case comes nearly two months after Smollett reported suffering an alleged hate crime attack in Chicago.
"Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th," attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement. "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."
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 two brothers who worked on "Empire" to execute it.
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 a hate crime attack on himself because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."
A Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts. He pleaded not guilty to multiple disorderly conduct charges in a court hearing earlier this month.
The lawyer for the brothers involved in the case, Obabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, previously said the pair had evidence backing their claim that Smollett orchestrated the attack. Smollett's lawyers said "misinformation" had been reported in the case and said they planned to prove a lack of evidence in the case.
"We are still reviewing all legal stuff," an attorney for the brothers said in a statement Tuesday.
Read Jussie Smollett's full statement, delivered in person after the hearing in which a judge agreed to drop the charges:
"First of all, I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, who have supported me, who have shown me so much love.
No one will ever know how much that has meant to me and I will forever be grateful. I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have 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.
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.
So I want to thank my legal counsel from the bottom of my heart and I would also like to thank the state of Illinois for attempting to do what's right.
Now I’d like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life but make no mistakes I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere."