Decision to drop charges against Smollett 'a whitewash of justice,' Chicago mayor says

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling the dropping of charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett "a whitewash of justice."

Empire actor was indicted on 16 felony counts related to making false report he was attacked in Chicago

Charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett, centre, have been dropped, according to his lawyers. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times/Associated Press)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is calling the dropping of charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett "a whitewash of justice."

Emanuel's comments Tuesday came after the surprise news that prosecutors had dropped all charges accusing Smollett of lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago.

Prosecutors haven't explained why they made the decision, and haven't said if they still maintain Smollett orchestrated the incident.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson accused the prosecutors of choosing to "hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson blasted the decision to drop all charges against Smollett and stood by the investigation that concluded Smollett staged a hoax. (Mitch Armentrout/Associated Press)

The actor was indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked in January by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.

One of the prosecutors later said the decision to drop the charges doesn't mean they no longer believe he staged a racial and homophobic attack against him in January.

First Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Magats told reporters Tuesday that he still believes Smollett filed a false police report. He says prosecutors "stand behind the investigation and the facts." 

Smollett defiant

"This was not an exoneration," he said.

A minimum requirement for the dropping of charges is typically that a defendant accept some responsibility and offer an apology.

But speaking after the charges were dropped, Smollett conceded nothing and did not apologize.

"I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since Day 1," he said at a news conference.

"I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of."

Record wiped clean

Smollett's lawyers, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, said in a Tuesday morning statement that his record "has been wiped clean."

"Now I'd like nothing more than to just get back to work and move on with my life," Smollett said. "But make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality and betterment of marginalized people everywhere."

In a statement, prosecutor's office spokeswoman Tandra Simonton offered no detailed explanation.

The statement 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."

WATCH | Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says entire event will have negative consequences:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel explains why the decision to drop all charges against Smollett will negatively impact future reporting of hate crimes. 0:40

Hours later, Magats told WLS-TV in Chicago that one of the reasons prosecutors decided to drop the charges was because they want to focus resources on the city's gun violence, combating "violent crime, gun crime and the drivers of violence."

Smollett had made a $10,000 US bond payment to the city to get out of jail after his arrest on the charges. Emanuel says that doesn't even come close to what the city spent investigating the alleged crime. 

"On financial cost, this $10,000, doesn't even come close to what the city spent in resources to actually look over the camera [footage], gather all the data, gather all the information that actually brought the indictment by the grand jury, on many many multiple charges," he said.  

Alleged hate crime

Police and prosecutors had initially concluded the American actor falsely reported to authorities that he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 in downtown Chicago to promote his career and because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show.

Smollett, who is black and gay, plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show that follows members of a black family as they 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 US.

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 belief that he was helping their careers.

Emanuel challenges Smollett's sense of decency:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel accuses Smollett of using hate laws to advance his own career. 0:51

Emanuel, who is in his final weeks in office after two terms, said the city saw its reputation "dragged through the mud" by Smollett's plan to promote his career. The hoax, the mayor said, could endanger other gay people who report hate crimes.

"Now this casts a shadow of whether they're telling the truth, and he did this all in the name of self-promotion," he said.

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.

With files from CBC News