In a stunning reversal, Cook County prosecutors on Tuesday dropped all charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging an attack and claiming he was the victim of a hate crime.
The surprise end to a case that had transfixed the nation brought swift condemnation from police brass and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called it a “Whitewash of justice.” “From top to bottom, this is not on the level,” Emanuel told reporters at an afternoon news conference, emphasizing repeatedly that a grand jury had chosen to bring 16 counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett.
The deal came to light as Smollett appeared unexpectedly in court Tuesday.
In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats, who took charge of the case after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx stepped aside because of a conflict of interest, said the office reached an unwritten deal with the defense in recent weeks to drop the charges if Smollett performed community service and forfeited his $100,000 bond.
In comments to reporters, Smollett’s attorney, Patricia Brown Holmes, denied any deal had been made with prosecutors, contrary to what Magats said.
Smollett had posted 10 percent of the bond – $10,000.
The mayor suggested that Smollett was given special treatment because of his celebrity and scoffed at the $10,000 – Smollett’s bond money -given to the city as part of the deal, noting it wouldn’t come close to the city’s expenditures for investigating the alleged attack.
” Before departing the courthouse, Smollett thanked his attorneys, family, friends, and Chicago for supporting him through what he called “an incredibly difficult time for me.
Foxx recused herself from the case last month after revealing she had contact with Smollett’s representatives early on in the investigation.
In the Tribune interview, Magats said prosecutors informed Chicago police officials Tuesday morning of the decision to drop the charges against Smollett, but he noted that the office has been in contact with police from the beginning about potential options for resolving the case.
There likely would have been no reporters in the courtroom if it hadn’t been for a publicist for Smollett’s attorney alerting the news media Tuesday morning that Smollett was already in court for an unscheduled emergency hearing.
Moments after the judge allowed the dismissal, attorneys for Smollett issued a statement.
“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,” the statement said.
” Police initially treated the incident as a hate crime, but their focus turned to Smollett after two brothers who were alleged to have been his attackers told police that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with a promise of an additional $500 later.
A week before the alleged attack, Smollett told police he received a threatening letter at work.
Prosecutors said Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with the studio’s response to the threatening letter.
Chicago police took it a step further, accusing Smollett of faking the letter as well.
The exchanges began Feb. 1, three days after Smollett said the attack occurred.
Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney’s office, said at the time that Smollett’s relative was specifically concerned about leaks to the media that purportedly came from the Police Department.
SOURCE: CHICAGO TRIBUNE