Have you been following the story of Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who claimed he was the victim of a hate crime? It’s over now, but we may never know the real truth.
In the first chapter of this strange and twisted tale, Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two unknown men in January of this year. According to him, the men yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the actor while beating him, tying a noose around his neck, and pouring some kind of chemical on him.
Smollett said the men yelled, “This is MAGA country!” linking the crime to supporters of the president.
His Empire costars and gossip blogs alike rallied around Smollett, who seemed to be the victim of a senseless crime. Then things took an unexpected turn.
The Chicago PD told the press that Smollett had staged the attack, paying a pair of brothers $3,500 for their role in the drama. Although he maintained his innocence throughout the police investigation, the evidence against Smollett seemed to be stacking up. They even found the check he used to pay his attackers!
Smollett was indicted on 16 felony charges. We were left to wonder about what kind of person would stage an attack like that, especially at such a fraught time in the United States. We speculated that Smollett might have wanted to raise his profile or bargain for a raise on Empire with a publicity stunt. Instead, producers suspended him and wrote his role out of the remainder of the season.
Now, the tables have turned once again. On Tuesday, all charges against Smollett were dropped and the incident was wiped from his record. In return, the actor agreed to forfeit his $100,000 bond and perform community service.
The Chicago PD is now accused of grossly mismanaging the case and leaking sensitive information to the press. They’ve launched an internal investigation to understand what happened, but as far as the alleged attack is concerned, the case is closed.
The Chicago Police Superintendent, along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, insist that Smollett was guilty. They say that Smollett cut a deal with the prosecutor to clear up the mess–which might be true!
Or it could be that Smollett, exhausted by the media circus following his attack, just wanted it to be over an accepted the deal offered to him. We don’t know yet if Empire will welcome him back with open arms. The writers, at least, have tweeted support for the actor. But series co-creator Lee Daniels has expressed sadness and frustration over the “rollercoaster” the whole Empire team has endured.