Brow Beat

Charges Against Empire Actor Jussie Smollett Dropped

Jussie Smollett seen in profile in a courthouse.
Jussie Smollett attends Leighton Criminal Court in Chicago on March 14. E. Jason Wambsgans/Getty Images

The Jussie Smollett case took an unexpected turn on Tuesday, when prosecutors announced that they had dropped all charges against the Empire actor, who stood accused of staging a fake hate crime and filing a false police report. Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office released a statement calling the decision to dismiss those charges “a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case” considering his “volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago.”

At a press conference following an emergency court session, Smollett’s attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said that there was no deal with prosecutors and that Smollett’s forfeiture of his bond, which was set at $100,000 and of which he paid $10,000, was not a condition of the dropped charges.* The State’s Attorney’s Office says that “without the completion of these terms, the charges would not have been dropped.” As of Tuesday, the case has been sealed. Holmes also admonished the Chicago Police Department for trying the case in the press, echoing an earlier statement in which she called Smollett “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 originally said that two men assaulted him in late January with bleach and a rope while yelling racist and homophobic slurs as well as “This is MAGA country.” During a news conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson had claimed Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to attack him because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire. Police said they were in possession of the check that Smollett allegedly made out to Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo for that purpose, but Smollett continued to maintain his innocence, arguing that the check was for nutrition and training. The case drew the attention of Donald Trump, who asked Smollett on Twitter: “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?”

Smollett spoke briefly at the press conference to say that he wants to get back to work and his life. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of,” he said. He would not answer questions about the Chicago Police Department or the Osundairo brothers but called the ordeal “an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life.”

In light of the charges against him, the producers of Empire had announced that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, would be cut from remaining two episodes of the Fox show “to avoid further disruption on set.” Fox released a statement declining to comment, but the writers room of Empire tweeted a CNN chyron declaring the dropped charges.

Correction, March 27, 2019: This post originally stated that Smollett would forfeit his entire $100,000 bond. He will forfeit the $10,000 he already paid.