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Prosecutors Drop Charges against Smollett in Hate-Crime-Hoax Case

Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Ill., March 14, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday dropped all the charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, who stood accused of staging a hate crime to advance his career.

Smollett was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct last month when police determined that he filed a false report after staging a racially motivated attack on himself with the help of two friends whose services he paid for with a check that was later recovered by police. He had pled not guilty to the charges before prosecutors decided to drop them.

“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,” Smollett’s legal team said in a statement Tuesday. “Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th.”

Prosecutors took Smollett’s history of community service into account when deciding to drop the charges, according to a statement released by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office Tuesday afternoon.

“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,” the statement said.

Addressing reporters at the Cook County courthouse moments after the charges were dropped, Smollett maintained his innocence.

“I want you to know that not for a moment was it in vain. I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he said.

Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two white men attacked him as he was walking home from a Subway shop around 2 a.m. on a frigid January night in Chicago. The men, according to Smollett’s account, punched him and placed a noose around his neck while shouting racist and homophobic slurs. After failing to mention it during his initial interview, Smollett later told police the men shouted “this is MAGA country” while fleeing, echoing a detail previously reported by TMZ.

After a weeks-long investigation, Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson announced that Smollett had hired two friends of his, brothers from Nigeria, to stage the attack in order to advance his own career.

“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson said at a February press conference announcing the charges against Smollett. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn, and certainly didn’t deserve. . . . The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police last week requested an investigation into State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx’s handling of the case on the grounds that she improperly asked Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI after Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, requested that she do so at the behest of one of Smollett’s relatives.

“Spoke to Superintendent Johnson. I convinced him to reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation,” Foxx wrote in an email sent two days after the alleged attack.

“OMG this would be a huge victory,” Tchen wrote in response to a text message from Foxx containing the same information as was included in the email.

“I make no guarantees,” Foxx responded, “but I’m trying.”

The FBI never took control of the probe, but Fraternal Order of Police president Kevin Graham believes Foxx should be investigated for trying to intervene.

“Private attorneys are not allowed to interfere with ongoing police investigations, particularly at the request of private individuals associated with subjects being investigated by the police,” Graham wrote in a letter sent Friday to John R. Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, obtained by CWBChicago.

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