Prosecutors have dropped the felony charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett after the actor was accused of faking a racist and homophobic hate crime.
Smollett claimed in January that he was the victim of a violent hate crime in which a pair of masked men attacked him on the streets of Chicago, called him racist and homophobic epithets, placed a noose around his neck, and shouted "This is MAGA country." But as police investigated his claims, they uncovered evidence that Smollett hired two men to fake the crime.
Smollett was originally charged with disorderly conduct, but had an additional sixteen charges brought against him for filing a false police report. In a press conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson explained that people like Smollett "do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators, as well as the citizens of this city."
"Chicago hosts one of the largest pride parades in the world, and we're proud of that as a police department and also as a city. We do not nor do we ever tolerate hate in our city, whether that hate is based on an individual's sexual orientation, race, or anything else. So I'm offended by what has happened and I'm also angry," he said.
But on Tuesday, Smollett appeared in an emergency court appearance in which prosecutors dropped the charges and asked that his records be sealed. In return, Smollett forfeited the $10,000 bail he had already given the city.
Smollett's attorneys sold the arrangement as evidence that the actor was telling the truth and was "a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator." The state's attorney's office simply stated, "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."
Local Chicago journalists report that the Chicago police were "furious" with the decision, and that Superintendent Johnson "had no heads up this was going to happen." Immediately after the announcement, the Chicago police union called for an investigation into State Attorney Kim Foxx's handling of the case.