SAN DIEGO – “Empire” actress Ta’Rhonda Jones learned of the charges being dropped in her coworker Jussie Smollett’s case while live on FOX 5 San Diego news Tuesday morning.
Jones, who was doing an interview discussing the newest episode of “Empire,” said she wasn’t aware of the development.
“This is all new to me. I’ve been locked in a room for about an hour. I don’t know what’s going on,” Jones said. “What I’ll say is whatever happens to the family stays in the family. I’m not at liberty to discuss it.”
All charges against Smollett — who had been accused of staging a hate crime against himself in Chicago and filing a false police report about it — have been dropped, prosecutors and his attorneys said Tuesday.
The move is a dramatic reversal in a case in which police alleged just last month that the 36-year-old “Empire” actor hired two acquaintances to attack him along a Chicago street in late January to promote his career.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately explain why the 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct were dropped, except to say it came after reviewing the case’s facts, and in view of Smollett’s agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond. Parts of the case will be sealed, one of Smollett’s attorneys said.
“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 state’s attorney’s office said in a statement.
Smollett’s attorneys maintain that the actor was indeed attacked in Chicago on January 29, and that misinformation led to a rush to judgment against him.
After a brief appearance in a Chicago courtroom where the charges were dropped, Smollett told reporters Tuesday morning he was thankful to everyone who stood by him, and that he wouldn’t have put his family “through a fire like this” for a lie.
“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since Day One,” Smollett said in a short statement before leaving the court building. “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, adding that he “will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere.”
“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.”
Smollett, who was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, had pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied any involvement in orchestrating an attack.
Smollett said that men attacked him, using racial and homophobic slurs
Smollett reported to police that two men attacked him near the lower entrance of a Loews hotel around 2 a.m. on January 29 in Chicago as he was walking back from getting something to eat.
Smollett, who plays a gay character on the Fox drama “Empire,” said the attackers yelled, ” ‘Empire’ fa***t'” and ” ‘Empire’ n***er,” while striking him, police said. The incident ended with a noose around his neck and bleach poured on him, police said.
The actor also said one of the men shouted, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, according to police.
Police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime.
After police detained and interviewed two brothers who were “persons of interest” in the case in mid-February, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that authorities suspected Smollett knew the men and allegedly had paid them to stage the attack.
Police said they believed that the brothers attacked Smollett at the actor’s direction. The men were released without being charged.
Smollett’s attorney: We believe the brothers attacked him
On Tuesday, Smollett attorney Patricia Brown Holmes said it’s her position that the brothers — who she said were Smollett’s fitness trainers — were Smollett’s attackers.
“The two brothers have said that they attacked him,” she said. “(But) we don’t want to try them in the press any more than” Smollett wanted to be, she said.
Smollett’s legal team says charges against him were a rush to judgment
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Holmes and another of his attorneys, Tina Glandian, said the actor 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 judgment.”
“This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion,” the statement reads. “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.”
20th Century Fox Television ‘gratified’ that charges were dropped
The studio and network behind the television drama “Empire” said it was “gratified” that the charges against the actor have been dropped.
“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed,” Chris Alexander, a spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television and the Fox network, said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.
Last month, “Empire” producers decided to remove Smollett’s character, Jamal, from the final two episodes of the season. The decision was made to “avoid further disruption on set,” producers said.