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All Charges Dropped Against ‘Empire’ Actor Jussie Smollett

Smollett was indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct last month for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed he’d been the victim of a hate crime.

Pilar Melendez3.26.19 11:15 AM ET

In a shocking move by Cook County prosecutors, all charges have been dropped against Empire actor Jussie Smollett—who was accused of faking a hate crime against himself–during a surprise court appearance on Tuesday.

The State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement that the decision was made after “reviewing the evidence in the case and considering his previous community service.”

Last week, Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on Jan. 29 in Chicago. Police said the actor had paid two men to orchestrate the hate-crime attack in an effort to “promote his career.”

“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,” his lawyers, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement.

“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th,” the statement continued. “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.”

At a press conference, Holmes said the actor did not strike a deal with prosecutors and has “nothing to say to the police department except to investigate charges and not try their cases in the press but to allow matters to be investigated.”

The judge has sealed all the records in the case, and Smollett forfeited his $10,000 bond.

“I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett told reporters after the Tuesday hearing. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop that I’ve been accused of.”

Smollett alleged that during the January attack, two men in ski masks tried to tie a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance on him as he walked home from a Subway sandwich shop. During the attack, Smollett alleged the men called him several homophobic and racist slurs, before shouting: “This is MAGA country.”

Chicago police launched a hate-crime investigation, but quickly found multiple inconsistencies in Smollett’s story, and evidence suggested the actor was involved in his own alleged attack, authorities said.

In February, Smollett was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a fake police report. Less than a month later, a Cook County grand jury increased the charges to over a dozen felony counts after police alleged Smollett staged the hate crime because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the Fox show. The next day, Smollett's character was cut from the rest of Empire’s fifth season.

“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said while announcing the charges. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve.

The actor has repeatedly denied all claims he was involved in his attack, and his lawyers have previously claimed the allegations just “further victimize him.”

“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,” the Tuesday statement from his legal team said.

Smollett’s family issued a statement on Tuesday, calling the dropped charges “vindication” for Jussie, who is “a victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack” that was “unjustly smeared.”

“While many were quick to rush to judgement before hearing the actual truth, we are grateful that the truth about Jussie has come to light,” the statement said.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation last month, but did not provide any details on that decision.

Smollett’s emergency hearing comes just one day after his former attorney was identified as a co-conspirator in a federal extortion case involving ex-Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti.

Mark Geragos, a celebrity lawyer who previously represented Michael Jackson and now reps Colin Kaepernick, has denied all the allegations.

“It is important to note that Mr Geragos has not been charged with any criminal conduct whatsoever,” Geragos’ attorney said in a statement Monday.

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