Entertainment

Mayor of Chicago criticises decision to drop charges against Jussie Smollett

The Empire actor had been accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, homophobic attack.

Prosecutors have abruptly dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, defence lawyers have said, apparently abandoning the case barely five weeks after the Empire actor was accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in Chicago.

Smollett’s lawyers 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”.

However, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel called the dropping of charges “a whitewash of justice”.

Empire Cast Member Attack
Actor Jussie Smollett (Paul Beaty/AP)

“I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was being accused of,” he told reporters after a court hearing.

He thanked the state of Illinois “for attempting to do what’s right.”

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 US dollars in bail to get out of jail after his arrest.

Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility.

Outside court, neither Smollett nor his legal team appeared to concede anything about his original report.

Defence lawyer 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.

Among the unanswered questions was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack or whether new evidence emerged that altered their view of events.

Empire Cast Member Attack
Actor Jussie Smollet, right, stands with his lawyer Tina Glandian (E. Jason Wambsgans/AP)

Smollett was accused of falsely reporting to authorities that he was attacked around 2am on January 29 in Chicago.

Investigators said he made the report because he was unhappy with his pay on Empire and believed it would promote his career.

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.

Empire Cast Member Attack
Supporters of Jussie Smollett outside a previous hearing (Matt Marton/AP)

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 US dollars.

The men are brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, and one of them had worked on Empire.

A lawyer 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.

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