Prosecutors have dropped all charges against US actor Jussie Smollett after he was accused of staging an alleged racist and homophobic attack he reported to police in January.
The actor, who is black and gay, had been charged with sixteen felony accounts of filing a false police report after he told police he was assaulted on a Chicago street by two masked men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and wrapped a rope round his neck.
But in a bizarre twist, Chicago police claimed Smollett had paid $3,500 to two brothers, both of whom are black, to stage the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on TV series Empire.
Now in another surprise move, on Tuesday the Chicago prosecutor’s office announced the charges had been dropped – citing Smollett’s “volunteer service in the community” and agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond – but said he had not been vindicated or exonerated.
“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,” a spokesperson for the Chicago prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Smollett said he had 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’ve been accused,” he said.
“I am a man of faith, and I am a man that has knowledge of my history, and I would not bring my family, our lives or the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t.”
Smollett’s attorneys said their client’s record “has been wiped clean”.
“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 lawyers said.
“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. The entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion.”
‘A whitewash of justice’
But Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision by prosecutors to drop the charges as a “whitewash of justice”.
“This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice, and sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power, you’ll get treated one way and other people will get treated another way,” he said.
The mayor said the case would make it harder for other people who are victims of hate crimes to come forward and Smollett had been “let off scot-free with no sense of accountability.”
“Is there no decency in this man?” he said.
“Our officers did hard work day in and day out working to unwind what happened that night. The city saw its reputation dragged through the mud.
“A grand jury saw the evidence [and] realized this was a hoax—a hoax on the city, a hoax on hate crimes, a hoax on people of good values who actually were empathetic at first. He used that empathy for only one reason… himself.”
Chicago police Supt Eddie Johnson said he felt justice had not been served and the city of Chicago “is still owed an apology”.
“At the end of the day it was Mr Smollett who committed this hoax. Period,” he said.
“If he wanted to clear his name, the way to do that was in a court of law so that everybody could see the evidence.”
QN Magazine | For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.