Unexpected news out of Chicago today, as several media outlets have now confirmed that Empire actor Jussie Smollett will not be prosecuted for allegedly faking a bigoted assault on the streets of Chicago back in January.
All charges against Smollett have been dropped, and the actor will face no legal consequences other than forfeiting $10,000 bond from his arrest.
"Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him," reads a statement issued by Smollett's attorneys this morning.
"Jussie was attacked by 2 people he was unable to identify on January 29th.
"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 judgment."
The statement continued:
"Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions.
"This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong," Smollett's lawyers added.
"It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect.
"Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result."
The news comes as a shock to many who had been following the case closely, as there seemed to be a wealth of evidence pointing to Smollett's guilt.
As you may recall, Smollett was accused of faking an attack by two perpetrators who he claimed were motivated by racism and homophobia.
An invesigation seemed to indicate that the assault was a hoax and the "assailants" were a pair of Nigerian personal trainers whom Smollett came to know well during their time working as extras on the Empire set.
It was alleged that Smollett had paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack.
Representatives for the Chicago Police Department publicly lambasted Smollett for wasting community resources and exacerbating racial tensions within the city.
A CPD source tells TMZ that the case against Smollett "disintegrated" just before the actor was set to face trial.
Police seem to have dropped the ball with regard to two key pieces of evidence:
The $3,500 check written to Smollett's alleged co-conspirators was later revealed to be a payment for personal training services.
Also, a Chicago police superintendent stated that a threatening letter received by Smollett had in fact been written by the actor, but the FBI claims that it never decisively concluded who wrote the letter.
Given the messiness that might have ensued from that situation, reaching a mutually agreeable deal was likely considered the best option for all involved.
We'll have further updates on this developing story as more information becomes available.