After months of speculation and outrageous backlash, the disorderly conduct charges and 16 felony counts of lying to the police filed against Empire actor Jussie Smollett have just been dropped (and sealed). Smollett who reported in January that he was attacked by two men outside of a Subway fast food restaurant late one night in Chicago, has been defending himself against allegations that he was lying and orchestrated the beat down.

In an emergency court hearing, a bomb was dropped.

The Illinois State Attorney Kim Foxx’s office communicated to the press the following:

“After reviewing all of 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.”

Furthermore, according to TMZ, Foxx told Chicago police she dropped the case because had he been convicted he would have gotten very minimal reprimand, believing he would have only been required to do community service. In her opinion, Smollett has already performed service and thus there no is cause to pursue further prosecution. TMZ reports it could not find “any record of Smollett doing community service.”

These blockbuster bombshells beg the question: Does Jussie Smollett have a claim for defamation against the City of Chicago Police Department and various news outlets?

In particular, there are two types of defamation which are actionable under the law. A defamatory statement made in writing and that is actually published is known as “libel,” and a defamatory statement that is spoken is known as “slander.” The elements of a defamation claim may vary based upon where the claim is brought. However, in general, for a public figure to prevail on a defamation claim, they must prove the following:

  • A false and defamatory statement was made about them;
  • That it was published or communicated to a third party;
  • Actual malice (meaning the actor made the statements with knowledge that they were false or with reckless disregard of their falsity); and
  • Damages.

Arguably, Smollett has had “false and defamatory” statements made about him, which were published and communicated to third parties, and his reputation has suffered considerable damage. His credibility with his fans has been completely diminished, particularly in the Black and LGBTQ communities, and also as a cast member on his hit show, Empire.