Jussie Smollett update: Questions remain after charges dropped against 'Empire' actor

CHICAGO (WLS) — One day after charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett were dropped, many questions still remain.

Prosecutors maintain they still believe the attack on him last January in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood was a hoax. The stunning turn of events has left some people outraged and others confused.

All 16 felony disorderly conduct counts against Smollett for allegedly lying to police were dropped in exchange for community service and forfeiture of his $10,000 bond payment.

Wednesday morning, the ABC7 I-Team received the Chicago police investigative files on Smollett.


After appearing in court Tuesday, Smollett said he has been truthful “since day one” and thanked his supporters.

“I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality, and betterment of marginalized people everywhere,” Smollett said.

The decision drew a sharp response from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, with Emanuel calling it a “whitewash of justice.”

“Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department,” Mayor Emanuel said. “How dare him? How dare him?”

“If someone falsely accused me, I would never hide behind a brokered deal and secrecy. Period,” Superintendent Johnson said.

Emanuel appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday morning to talk about the Smollett case. The Chicago mayor said Smollett, “abused the city of Chicago” and the city, “embraced not only him as an actor, but more importantly the values of being whoever you are, whoever you love, whatever your background is you have a home here. He took that, turned it around and tried to self-promote himself. And the fact is he’s walking around with no sense of contrition, no sense of remorse and the fact is also the state’s attorney is saying he’s actually guilty of this hoax and he’s walking around saying, no, I’m innocent.”

Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian was also on GMA and responded to the criticism from Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson.

“I think if they believed the charges they never would have dismissed the case,” Glandian said. “It’s such a high-profile matter. Everyone has been talking about it. Obviously it’s made national headlines….They could have proceeded in a variety of ways. We were ready to move forward. We appeared in court, we pled not guilty. We were ready to fight the charges and they’re ones who voluntarily discontinued the matter so I think that speaks volumes.”

Glandian said Smollett is now weighing his options and wants to get his career and life back on track.

“He did not ask for any of this,” she said. “He was a victim of a crime. This has completely spiraled out of control and become a political event at this point and his goal and focus right now is just getting his life back on track. He has not even started healing from the initial attack because he’s been dealing with everything that has happened since then. I don’t know. I mean, we’re shocked at the mayor and the police superintendent doubling down yesterday when the prosecutor after a dispassionate look at the evidence realized it does not hold up and chose to voluntarily dismiss all counts and expunge his record so we’ll weigh our options and see how this develops.”

Last January, Smollett told police. He was attacked by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs who put a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him. But police determined Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his “Empire” salary.

Police said Smollett paid the Osundairo brothers $3,500 and the siblings bought the supplies used in the alleged hoax.

Joe Magats, first assistant state’s attorney, took over the case when his boss, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, recused herself from the probe after it surfaced that she had been in touch with Smollett’s family.

“This was not an exoneration. To say that he was exonerated by us or anyone is not true,” Magats said. “We believe he did what he was charged with doing.”

So why were charges dropped? Prosecutors said they concluded the case, like thousands of other non-violent felonies. Details of the case have been sealed.

Magats explained that his office devotes its resources to combating violent crime, and that the Smollett case didn’t fall within that mission.

“Our goal and our No. 1 priority is combating violent crime and the drivers of violence and we look to our resources to do that and I don’t think that Mr. Smollett is a driver of violence or a violent individual,” he said.

Magats said that community service that Smollett performed prior to the charges being dropped and his agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago also contributed to prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges.

A federal probe by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service into whether Smollett played a role in sending a threatening letter to himself prior to the allegedly staged attack remains open, despite Tuesday’s developments, a law enforcement official told ABC News.

Smollett completed 16 hours of community service with The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a human/civil rights organization in Chicago, Magats and the organization confirmed. Rainbow PUSH Coalition actually reached out to Smollett, according to a statement issued Tuesday night.

Abel and Ola Osundairo had worked on “Empire.” They have yet to comment but a statement.

Gloria Schmidt, the attorney who represented the brothers, said in a statement, “The Osundairo brothers were fully prepared to testify in any criminal proceeding in the Jussie Smollett case. Following today’s decision ending the criminal case against Smollett, Gloria Schmidt no longer represents the Osundairo brothers as trial witnesses in the criminal matter. The Gloria Law Group remains in partnership with Strategia Consulting as they continue their work with other clients who have sought the skills and professional services of the Gloria Law Group.”

Though police stand by the investigation, Smollett’s defense team said their client was “vilified” and accused prosecutors and police of attempting “to prove a case in the court of public opinion.”

“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 attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a statement. “Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. 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.

“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. 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. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.

“Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”

ABC 7 Chicago