The twisting case of the attack on Empire actor Jussie Smollett took an unexpected turn Tuesday, as Illinois officials dropped all criminal charges against the actor.
“We believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” said one Cook County prosecutor in announcing the dismissal, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Smollett had been charged with 16 different criminal counts after being accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack against him. Officials on Feb. 21 said he both faked a letter using racist and homophobic language, mailing it to the Chicago studio where Empire is filmed, and paid $3,500 to two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack. Police said Smollett staged the attack because he was dissatisfied with his salary.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
An unscheduled emergency hearing was held Tuesday morning, before the charges were dropped. The judge also granted a motion to seal the case.
The sealing of the case by the judge will likely only add to the mystery surrounding the events. Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, said the actor did not reach a deal with prosecutors. However, he did agree to forfeit his $100,000 bond “so he could go on with his life and get this over with.” In doing so, it essentially means Smollett surrendered $10,000 (the 10% of the bond he personally posted) that normally would be returned to him.
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” Smollett’s attorneys said in a statement. “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. 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.”
Smollett has said he was attacked when he went to buy food late at night in downtown Chicago, adding that one attacker told him “this is MAGA country”. Initially, he received a wave of support, but suspicions began to grow when police could find no video footage of the attack.
After he was charged, Fox removed Smollett from the final episodes of Empire‘s fifth season, saying “Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.”
The network has not commented further on his future on the show.