Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Empire star Jussie Smollett.
The openly gay actor was facing 16 felony counts after being accused of faking a racist and homophobic hate crime in January. He pleaded not guilty earlier this month.
Smollett attended an unscheduled court hearing in Chicago on Tuesday (26 March), where a judge agreed to the prosecutors’ request to dismiss all criminal charges and ordered the case file sealed.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement to USA Today that the decision was made “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case,” adding that they believe the outcome is the “appropriate resolution” to the case.
There has been no explanation from authorities as to why the charges was dropped.
“I want to thank my family, my friends, the incredible people of Chicago, and people all over the country and the world who have prayed for me, supported me and shown me so much love,” Smollett told reporters
“No one will ever know how much that has meant to me, and I will forever be grateful. I have 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 was accused of.
“This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life, but I am a man who has faith and knowledge of our history, and I would not bring my family, our lives and the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t.”
He added: “I’d like nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life, but make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for justice, equality and the betterment of marginalised people everywhere.”
Smollett reportedly agreed to forfeit the $10,000 he had paid on a $100,000 bond.
His attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said that dismissal of charges was “the only just result” and that his record has now been “wiped clean” of the accusations.
“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,” they said.
“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.”
Not everyone is happy with the outcome, though. During a press conference, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the decision was “without a doubt a whitewash of justice” and asked: “Is there no decency to this man?”