Prosecutors have dropped all charges against actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging an attack on himself, but Chicago-area authorities insist that doesn’t mean he is innocent. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx gave no explanation for why her office wasn’t pursuing the case against Smollett, who is accused of hiring two brothers to fake a racist, anti-gay attack on him on the streets of Chicago in late January. Police said last month that Smollett planned the hoax because he was unhappy with his salary on Empire, a television show on Fox about an African-American family in the music industry, and wanted to promote his career.
Foxx said in an interview Wednesday with WBBM-TV in Chicago that the decision to drop the charges was “an outcome that we could expect with this type of case.” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel disagreed, calling it a “whitewash of justice,” and Joseph Magats, the assistant state’s attorney who handled the case, said he does not think Smollett is innocent, either. Smollett had to forfeit $10,000 in bond money, and Chicago officials on Thursday ordered him to pay $130,000 to cover the cost of the police investigation into his claims.
Eight days before the fake attack, the actor received a threatening letter at the Chicago studio where Empire is shot. Chicago police previously said he sent it to himself. The FBI is still investigating the letter and hasn’t commented on the state of its inquiry. President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, tweeting that the FBI and the Department of Justice would review the “outrageous” case, calling it an embarrassment to the country.
The case stoked political and racial tension across the United States. Trump critics initially sympathized with Smollett, who said his attackers wore the “Make America Great Again” caps popularized during Trump’s presidential campaign. (The alleged attackers did wear such hats—they said Smollett wrote them a check to go buy them.) When police said the whole thing was a hoax, Trump supporters hit back, accusing liberals of groupthink and hysteria.
Smollett still stands by his claims and says the two brothers who accused him of setting up the attack are lying. —Lynde Langdon