Chicago prosecutors have dropped all 16 criminal charges against actor Jussie Smollett as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Smollett was previously charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct in connection with filing a false police report and allegedly paying two brothers to stage a hate crime against him. According to reports, Smollett reported the false crime because he was unhappy with his pay for his role on television series Empire.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to all charges and continued to maintain his innocence throughout the entire saga. As part of the deal, Smollett completed 16 hours of community service and forfeited his $10,000 bond to the city.
Adding fuel to the speculation fire, district attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case early on. Foxx later clarified that she had not formally recused herself, but separated herself from any decision-making out of "an abundance of caution" and not due to any conflict of interest. Foxx had spoken with Smollett's family members to help with the investigation when it was still believed Smollett had been a victim of a crime.
News outlets obtained copies of text messages between Foxx and Tina Tchen, a former chief of staff for Michelle Obama. Tchen reached out to Foxx to express concerns about how the investigation was originally being handled in early February. Tchen has stated she was only trying to put the chief prosecutor on a case in tough with an alleged victim's family.
The Chicago PD is reportedly upset about the charges being dropped, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emannuel has called for Smollett to pay the city $130,000 to cover the costs of the police investigation into his initial report. Smollett has refused to pay this amount.
Chicago could file a civil suit against Smollett to seek monetary damages. If such a case proceeds, a judge will have to decide whether the attack was indeed fake before determining whether Smollett will be required to pay the city. Whether the attack was fake is evaluated on a standard of whether it is more likely than not (51/49 %) that the attack and report were false - much lower than a criminal case, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Should Smollett be convicted in a civil case, he could face termination from his role on Empire. Fox has declined to confirm Smollett's future on the show, but has removed his character from the remaining episodes of the current season.
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