Prosecutors said, however, that they had not exonerated "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett of faking a racist and homophobic attack. Chicago's mayor and police chief were furious with the decision.
Chicago prosecutors on Friday dropped all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett, a US actor whom police accused of fabricating a racist and homophobic hate crime.
The prosecutor's office cited Smollett's "volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago" for the surprise move, but said it had not exonerated him.
The decision is unusual, because US prosecutors often drop charges only after defendants have conceded some level of responsibility for the crimes they were accused of committing.
The announcement came only five weeks after prosecutors had filed the 16 charges against the actor, who is best known for appearing in the US television drama series "Empire."
Vindication and anger
Smollett, who is gay and black, praised the decision.
"I would not be my mother's son if I was capable of one drop of what I was being accused of," he said. "This has been an incredibly difficult time," he added. "Honestly, one of the worst in my entire life."
Chicago's police chief and mayor swiftly denounced the move.
Chicago police chief Eddie Johnson (L) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were livid that the charges had been dropped
"This is a whitewash of justice," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department. How dare him?" he added.
Police chief Eddie Johnson said the evidence proved Smollett had fabricated the crime.
"I think this city is still owed an apology," he added.
What was Smollett accused of?
Police accused Smollett of sending himself a threatening letter and hiring two people to stage an attack on him in late January to gain publicity.
The accomplices allegedly shouted homophobic and racial slurs and "Make America Great Again" — a slogan often invoked by supporters of US President Donald Trump — during the assault.
A lawyer for the alleged accomplices said they had helped Smollett because they were friends and wanted to improve their own career prospects.
amp/se (AFP, AP)