All charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett have been dropped.
The gay actor had been facing 16 felony counts after claiming in January that he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack.
However, in an unscheduled court appearance in Chicago on Tuesday (March 26), the state filed a motion to dismiss all charges against him, and seal the case.
The judge accepted the motion.
It is unclear what development led to the abrupt decision from prosecutors to end the case.
In a statement to USA Today, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the decision was taken “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case.”
Jussie Smollett thanks supporters as charges are dropped
Speaking to the media, Smollett said: “I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago, and people all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, supported me and shown me so much love.
“No one will ever know how much that has meant to me, and I will forever be grateful.”
He added: “I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life, but I am a man who has faith and knowledge of our history, and I would not bring my family, our lives and the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t.”
Smollett thanked his legal counsel and the state of Illinois, before adding: “I’d like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life, but make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for justice, equality and the betterment of marginalised people everywhere.”
State drops all charges against Jussie Smollett
In a statement to ABC, Jussie’s Smollett’s attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said: “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 29.
“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.”
The attorneys added: “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.”
The statement adds: “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.”
No plea deal was struck, though Smollett’s lawyers confirmed he agreed to forfeit a $100,000 bond.
The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said: “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’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.”
Jussie Smollett had maintained his innocence
The gay actor maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal, entering a not guilty plea on March 14.
The actor was suspended from Empire after the charges were filed, and written out of the remaining episodes of the show’s fifth season.
A spokesperson for Fox said: “As of this time, the studio and network have no comment.”
Chicago police had accused Smollett of faking the incident by paying associates Abel and Ola Osundairo $3,500 to fake an attack, though his lawyers asserted that the money was in fact a personal training fee.
His then-lawyer Mark Geragos had said: “Why is it, if they did this and were in cahoots with him, why weren’t why indicted?”
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He added: “Their motivation, I’ve got my theories on it, but I haven’t seen one piece of evidence that links Jussie to this. What they do have is a whale of a case. If you believe what the police chief is saying, they’ve got a great case against the two brothers.
“They’ve got Lyft receipts, they’ve got ATM receipts, they’ve got a surveillance video, but what do they have that corroborates the story?
“What do they have, besides their word, that says he [Jussie] was in on this?”
Jussie Smollett family: Our son has been vindicated
In a statement, the Smollett family said: “Our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared.
“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.
“He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack. This morning truth has prevailed and he has been vindicated.”
The statement adds: “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.
“We look forward to bringing the real perpetrators to justice. We thank God and our village for standing by us during this trying time.”