CHICAGO (AP/Gray News) — CHICAGO (AP) — In an astonishing reversal, prosecutors on Tuesday abruptly dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett, abandoning the case barely five weeks after the "Empire" actor was accused of lying to police about being the target of a racist, anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago.
The mayor and police chief blasted the decision and stood by the investigation that concluded Smollett staged a hoax.
Smollett attorneys Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement that Smollett’s record “has been wiped clean.” Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men.
“We believe it was the correct response,” Holmes said at a news conference. “We are anxious for Jussie to get on with his career and his life.”
A reserved Smollett also spoke.
"I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one," he said. "I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I've been accused of."
Smollett called himself a "man of faith" and said he wanted to move on with his life.
“I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago and all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, who have supported me.”
Among the questions that weren’t immediately answered was whether prosecutors still believe Smollett concocted the attack and whether there’s new evidence that altered their view of events. Typically, a minimum condition of dropping cases is some acceptance of responsibility. In a statement, the Cook County prosecutors’ office offered no detailed explanation.
"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 from spokeswoman Tandra Simonton said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's police chief have angrily criticized Jussie Smollett and the decision by prosecutors to drop all charges that alleged the "Empire" actor staged a racial and homophobic attack in the city in January.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, a visibly angry Emanuel called the decision a "whitewash of justice" and asked, "Where is the accountability in the system?"
Emanuel criticized Smollett for not taking any responsibility despite what he described as overwhelming evidence. He also says Smollett continues to drag Chicago's reputation through "the mud." His voice seeming to quiver with anger he said about Smollett, "Is there no decency in this man?"
Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said Smollett still owns the city an apology.
Smollett has not backtracked from his original story, insisting he’d been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was seething over the decision to drop the charges.
“He used the laws of the hate crime association that all of us through the years have put on the books to stand up to be the values that embody what we believe in,” Emanuel said. “This is a whitewash of justice. A grand jury could not have been clearer.”
Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson expressed his disappointment.
“Do I think justice was served? No,” he said.
Johnson, who's been an officer for 31 years, suggested Smollett's attorneys brokered a deal.
"I've heard that they wanted their day in court with TV cameras so America could know the truth and know they tried to hide behind secrecy to broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system," he said.
Johnson said he stands behind his department’s investigation.
Smollett had made a $10,000 bond payment to get out of jail after his arrest on the charges.
Police and prosecutors have said Smollett falsely reported to authorities that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago because he was unhappy with his pay on "Empire" and to promote his career.
Smollett, who is black and gay, plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show that follows a family as it navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
Smollett reported that he had been attacked on his way home from a sandwich shop. Smollett said two masked men shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him and looped a rope around his neck. He claimed they shouted, “This is MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. He asserted that he could see one of the men was white because he could see the skin around his eyes.
Police said Smollett hired two men, both of whom are black, to attack him. Police said Smollett paid the men $3,500.
The men are brothers Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, and one of them had worked on "Empire." An attorney for them has said the brothers agreed to help Smollett because of their friendship with him and the sense that he was helping their careers.
Police have also said that before the attack, Smollett sent a letter that threatened him to the Chicago studio where “Empire” is shot. The FBI, which is investigating that letter, has declined to comment on the investigation.