Charges against the actor, who was accused of staging an alleged hate attack against himself, were dropped Tuesday

By Rachel DeSantis and Christina Dugan
March 26, 2019 04:24 PM
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Jussie Smollett’s Empire costars are eagerly anticipating his possible return to set now that he’s been cleared of charges stemming from an alleged hate attack.

“I’m happy his charges are being dropped and look forward to seeing Jussie on set and his character Jamal back on Empire,” costar AzMarie Livingston tells PEOPLE in a statement.

Livingston, 32, plays Chicken on the FOX drama. Days after Smollett’s arrest Feb. 20 that his character Jamal Lyons would be removed from the final two episodes of season 5 in order to “avoid further disruption on set.”

“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” said Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer in a statement. “Jussie has been an important member of our EMPIRE family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”

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Livingston’s enthusiasm in light of the latest update follows that of Empire writer JaNeika N. James, who tweeted, “WE LOVE YOU JUSSIE!!! Thank you for ALWAYS standing in your truth #truthwillalwaysprevail.”

The Empire writers also shared their feelings on Twitter, writing, “See y’all Wednesday,” with a winking emoji, referencing the day of the week the show airs.

“Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed,” 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said in a statement.

Charges against the actor, who was accused of staging an alleged hate crime attack against himself in Chicago in January, were dropped Tuesday by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

“After reviewing all the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” reads a statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office obtained by PEOPLE.

Jussie Smollett
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The office added in a followup statement, “We stand by the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our approval of charges.”

Smollett, 36, told police he was assaulted in the early hours of Jan. 29 by two men in masks who yelled racist and homophobic insults at him, and slipped a rope around his neck, which he was still wearing when he was interviewed by police.

Two men who were acquaintances of Smollett later were arrested and questioned but released after police said the men indicated they worked with Smollett to stage the incident.

The star was arrested Feb. 20 and charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct related to falsifying the police report.

Jussie Smollett
Paul Beaty/AP/Shutterstock

Police said in a press conference following the arrest that they believed Smollett paid $3,500 to stage a “bogus” attack on himself because he was unhappy with his Empire salary, though a source denied any dissatisfaction with money to PEOPLE.

Smollett, who has maintained his innocence, spoke out Tuesday shortly after the charges were dropped, insisting he has been telling the truth about the attack since the very beginning.

“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he told reporters at the Cook County courthouse in Chicago. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of.”

The surprise announcement out of Chicago comes one week after Empire creator Lee Daniels spoke to the “pain and anger” he and the rest of the cast felt over the scandal.

“Oh my God, these past couple of weeks have been a freakin’ roller coaster,” he said in an Instagram post. “Me and my cast have experienced pain and anger and sadness and frustration and really don’t know how to deal with it. You know?”