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Jussie Smollett charges dropped by prosecutors

Prosecutors have dropped all 16 charges against the "Empire" actor for allegedly staging a fake attack and claiming he was a victim of a hate crime.
/ Source: TODAY

Prosecutors announced Tuesday that all charges against actor Jussie Smollett have been dropped after the "Empire" star had been accused of staging a fake attack and claiming he had been the victim of a hate crime.

Smollett, 36, had faced 16 felony counts in connection with the alleged incident on Jan. 29 in Chicago before prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois, abruptly dismissed them in court on Tuesday, which was accepted by Judge Steven Watkins.

Jussie Smollett
All charges have been dropped for actor Jussie Smollett in connection with an allegedly staged hate crime. AP

Smollett issued a statement to reporters outside the courtroom following Tuesday's ruling, thanking his supporters and declaring his innocence.

"I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,'' he said. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I'd 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."

Smollett's attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, issued a statement following the ruling.

"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 judgement.

"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.

"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."

Chicago police and the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, criticized the decision to drop the charges.

"From top to bottom this is not on the level," Emanuel said. "At the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett that committed this false claim."

The producers of "Empire" dropped Smollett's character from the final two episodes of the latest season after he was charged with filing a false police report. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was out on $100,000 bond.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said Tuesday that "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."

Smollett's family also issued a statement.

"Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared," the family said. "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."

Smollett had claimed he was attacked in Chicago at 2 a.m. by two men who yelled racist and homophobic epithets at the actor, who is African-American and gay. He alleged that they wrapped a noose around his neck and yelled "This is MAGA country," in reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan.

Two brothers told police Smollett paid them to stage the attack because he was unhappy with his pay on "Empire," leading police to turn their focus on him. He was then indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts related to the alleged incident.