Empire actor Jussie Smollett pledged in a press conference Tuesday to continue fighting for “justice” and “equality” following reports that charges against the Fox star were dropped in connection to filing a false police report about an allegedly staged hate crime against himself.
“Now I’d like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life,” Smollett told reporters outside a Chicago courthouse. “But make no mistake, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality, and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
Smollett’s defiant remarks came after his legal team announced that prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against the Empire actor, apparently abandoning the case barely five weeks after he was accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago.
Smollett’s attorneys said his record had “been wiped clean” of the 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was assaulted by two men. The actor insisted that he had “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
“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. 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 judgment,” Smollett’s lawyers said in a statement. “Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. 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.”
It was not immediately clear what prompted the decision to dismiss the case. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors’ office offered no detailed explanation.
“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 statement from spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
Smollett paid $10,000 in bail to get out of jail after his arrest.
Defense attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said Smollett was “attacked by two people he was unable to identify” and “was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator.”
Authorities alleged Smollett knew the men and arranged for them to pretend to attack him.
The actor, who is black and gay, plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
He reported that he was assaulted on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.
Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Smollett allegedly paid the men $3,500.
The men are brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on “Empire.” An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.
Police have also said that before the attack, Smollett sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where Empire is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment on the investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.