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Chicago Authorities And Jussie Smollett


The actor Jussie Smollett is suddenly in the clear. Police said investigators had more than enough evidence to convict the actor of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself. But then yesterday, Chicago prosecutors decided to drop all of the charges against him. Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, called this decision a, quote, "whitewash of justice." Here's more from NPR's Cheryl Corley.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Here we go. Heads up.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The news that "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett wouldn't have to fight felony charges of disorderly conduct came as a surprise as reporters and fans quickly gathered in the lobby of the criminal courts building. Smollett said his battle against the charges had not been in vain.


JUSSIE SMOLLETT: I've been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.

CORLEY: Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct, accused of filing a false police report. The actor is black and gay. He said he was attacked by two men wearing masks who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck while expressing support for President Donald Trump. That alleged incident took place in January. Chicago police called it a hoax and said Smollett, unhappy with his pay on the show "Empire," hired two brothers to carry out the attack and staged everything for publicity. Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, angrily denounced the move to drop the charges.


RAHM EMANUEL: This is without a doubt a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you're in a position of influence and power, you'll get treated one way, other people will be treated another way. There is no accountability then in the system. It is wrong - full stop.

CORLEY: Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said he didn't know about the prosecutor's plans until Tuesday's court hearing. He says justice was not served.


EDDIE JOHNSON: If you want to say you're innocent of a situation, then you take your day in court. I would never - if someone falsely accused me, I would never hide behind a brokered deal and secrecy.

CORLEY: Joe Magats with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office says the charges against Smollett were dropped in return for Smollett doing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond to the city of Chicago. He says it's what is called an alternative prosecution.

JOE MAGATS: And to read in a belief that we have cleared him, that we have vindicated him or that he is innocent is not accurate.

CORLEY: Magats says it's not unusual to dismiss charges in certain nonviolent felony cases if a person doesn't have a violent background and meets certain conditions, but not everyone is buying that argument in this case.

TERRY EKL: It just has a real bad stench to it, to be honest with you.

CORLEY: That's Chicago attorney Terry Ekl, a former county prosecutor. He says an alternative prosecution is not a typical way to handle a case as serious as Smollett's.

EKL: And with tremendous resources of the Chicago Police Department having been diverted, I really think it is a case that clearly should have been presented in a courtroom, or he should have pled guilty.

CORLEY: Details about the prosecution's decision won't be revealed. The court file was sealed. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Smollett still owes the city an apology, but defense attorney Patricia Brown Holmes says Smollett was a victim who was then vilified.


PATRICIA BROWN HOLMES: We have nothing to say to the police department except to investigate charges and not try their cases in the press to convict people before they are tried in a court of law.

CORLEY: When this legal fight is over, the FBI continues its investigation to determine whether it was Jussie Smollett or someone else who sent a letter threatening the actor to the Chicago studio where the show "Empire" is produced.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAN FOREBEE'S "INTROSPECTION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Cheryl Corley
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.