Words: Will Stroude
Chicago's mayor and most senior police officer have slammed the decision by prosecutors to drop all charges against Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack in January.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel branded the development a "whitewash of justice" after a judge sealed the case in a court hearing on Tuesday (26 March).
Cook County State's Attorney's office said it had decided to drop the charges after the facts of the case were reviewed and Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 (£7,572) bond to the City of Chicago.
"From top to bottom, this is not on the level," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press conference on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, it’s Mr. Smollett that committed this false claim."
The Democratic politician continued: "This is a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you’re in a position of influence and power you’ll be treated one way, other people will be treated another way.
He added: "There is no accountability then in the system. It is wrong — full stop.”
Mr Emanuel also said the incident may undermine future efforts to tackle hate crime aghainst minorities.
"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?" he said.
"Now, this cast a shadow of whether they are telling the truth and he did this all in the name of self-promotion."
Mr Emanuel's comments were echoed by Chicago Police Superintendant Eddie Johnson, who said the city was "still owed an apology" over the incident.
"Do I think justice was served?" Johnson told reporters on Tuesday. "No. What do I think justice is? I think this city is still owed an apology.”
He went on: "If someone falsely accused me I would never hide behind a brokered deal and secrecy."
"At the end of the day it was Mr Smollett who committed this hoax. Period."
Smollett, 36, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 16 counts of disorderly conduct relating to the attack in January, in which he claimed two white men tied a rope around his neck, poured a corrosive substance over him and made reference to President Donald Trump's 2016 election slogan 'Make America Great Again'.
Doubt had been cast on the Empire actor's claims after police arrested two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, who had worked personal trainers for Smollett and had also appeared as extras on the show.
The pair, who are both black, reportedly told police Smollett had paid them to carry out the assault.
Smollett maintained his innocence outside court on Tuesday, telling reporters he had been "truthful and consistent on every single level since day one."
"I want nothing more than to get back to work and move on with my life. Make no mistakes, I will always continue to fight for the justice, equality, and betterment of marginalised people everywhere."
Smollett's lawyers said in a statement the actor's record had been "wiped clean of this tragic case against him," adding that "he was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public, causing an inappropriate rush to judgement."