What Does the Latest Jussie Smollett Development Mean?

Jussie Smollett. Photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

After weeks of confusing reports from both Jussie Smollett and the Chicago Police Department, charges have been filed and dropped — and we still have an unclear picture of what happened in January, when Smollett claims he was attacked by two men in an alleged hate crime. Smollett, who is gay and black, claimed that the two men who beat him up did so because of his identity; Chicago investigators later charged Smollett with 16 federal charges related to filing a false police report.

On Tuesday, March 26, the Cook County State Attorney’s Office announced that it would drop all charges filed against Smollett.

“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’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 Cook County statement said. The charges were dropped, but Smollett was not explicitly exonerated of guilt.

Given the conflicting narratives surrounding Smollet’s case, it is not surprising that the 16 dropped charges against Smollett have garnered mixed reactions, with police expressing outrage and Smollett’s supporters insisting he was innocent all along. Here’s a running guide to how everyone involved has responded so far.

Smollett and his team say he was vilified by the police department, and maintain his innocence.

“I’d like nothing more than to move on and get on with my life,” Smollett said at a press conference on Tuesday. “But make no mistake, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality, and betterment of marginalized people for all my life. So again, thank you for all of the support.”

Smollett’s lawyers released a statement addressing the dismissal of charges on Tuesday afternoon, and maintained that Smollett was the victim of assault. They also say that Smollett was later vilified by the Chicago police department.

“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 read. “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.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that the dropped charges are a “whitewash of justice.”

Public officials in Chicago expressed outrage about the entire incident. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the outcome of the case a “whitewash of justice,” according to The Hill. In a press conference, Mayor Emanuel stood next to Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson as he accused Smollett of receiving special treatment because of his fame.

“You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and one set of rules apply to everybody else,” Emanuel said. “You have a person using hate-crime laws that are on the books to protect people who are minorities from violence, to then turn around and use those laws to advance your career and your financial reward. Is there no decency in this man? It is wrong, full stop.”

At the same press conference, Superintendent Johnson added that the “city is still owed an apology” by Smollett, adding, “Do I think justice was served? No.”

20th Century Fox and the writers of Empire have continued to support Smollett.

Smollett’s employers at 20th Century Fox and Empire have both continued to express support for the actor. “Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence,” reads a statement issued by 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment. “We are gratified on his behalf that all charges against him have been dismissed.”

The official Twitter account for the writers of Empire responded with a slightly less formal statement of support, tweeting out a photo of the news chyron that announced all charges against Smollett had been dropped, along with, “see y’all Wednesday.”

Some in the Hollywood community reaffirmed his innocence as well.

Following the news of the dropped charges, some celebrities went online to celebrate and offer words of support for Smollett. Questlove simply wrote, “TOLD YALL,” while Ava Duvernay recirculated a previous tweet criticizing the Chicago police.

“Despite the inconsistencies, I can’t blindly believe Chicago PD. The department that covered up shooting Laquan McDonald over a dozen times? That operated an off-site torture facility? That one? I’ll wait,” Duvernay wrote in February. “Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t.”

Beyond public officials and celebrities, the rest of the internet remains very much divided, with many right-wing pundits calling the dropped charges a miscarriage of justice, while supporters of Smollett have accused the Chicago police of further victimizing Smollett.

What Does the Latest Jussie Smollett Development Mean?