Prosecutors Decided to Drop Smollett Charges Weeks before Announcing It

US
Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Ill., March 14, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

Prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office decided against prosecuting Empire actor Jussie Smollett just one week after he turned himself into police, roughly a month before making the decision public, according to newly unsealed court documents.

In late Februrary, Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier instructed Chicago Police Department detectives to halt their investigation into the hoax hate crime Smollett allegedly staged and suggested that the celebrity actor could resolve his case by paying “Chicago $10K in restitution and doing community service.”

That communication occurred one month before Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced she was dropping all 16 charges related to the staged hate crime absent an admission of guilt, due to the non-violent nature of Smollett’s alleged offense and his record of community service.

Smollett initially claimed that he was attacked by two white men early one January morning while he was walking back from getting a sandwich at a Subway franchise. According to Smollett’s police statement, the attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him and tied a noose around his neck.

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Following a two-week investigation, Chicago Police superintendent Eddie Johnson announced that Smollett had paid two brothers he previously worked with $3,500 to stage the attack, taking “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

Johnson and then-outgoing Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel were outraged by Foxx’s decision to drop all charges and accused her of giving Smollett favorable treatment because of his status as a celebrity.

“Where is the accountability in the system?” Emanuel asked at a press conference. “You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else.”

The newly released police documents also revealed that Smollett had previously purchased marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine from the brothers.

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