CHICAGO— On Tuesday, prosecutors for Cook County, Illinois, dropped all charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett.
The news comes after Smollett pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on March 14 on a 16-count indictment of lying to police. He has denied the charges.
Smollett, 36, told Chicago police that he was attacked in the middle of the night on Jan. 29, claiming that two masked men shouted homophobic and racist abuse at him, beat his face, threw bleach on him, hung a noose around his neck and yelled, "This is MAGA country," a reference to President Trump's campaign slogan.
Local shock, a nationwide outcry, and an urgent Chicago police investigation ensued.
While messages of support for Smollett from his famous friends, from presidential candidates and total strangers poured in over social media, police busied themselves watching hours of surveillance video and searching for two murky figures Smollett said were the attackers.
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On Feb. 20, after a flurry of conflicting leaks from the Chicago Police Department about the status of the investigation, Smollett was charged by police with one Class 4 felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about the alleged attack.
He turned himself in early the next day, was arrested and briefly jailed, before being released on $100,000 bond.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid bodybuilder brothers Ola Osundairo, 27, and Abel Osundairo, 25, $3,500 to stage an attack on him in order to raise his profile and his TV salary.
"Empire" creator Lee Daniels took to Instagram Wednesday to share what the cast of his Fox series has been feeling since "the incident."
"Oh my God, these past couple of weeks have been a freakin' roller coaster," Daniels said to his Instagram followers hours before new episodes of his shows "Empire" and "Star" premiered on Fox.
"(My cast and I have) experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don't know how to deal with it, you know?"
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Contributing: Maria Puente