Taraji P. Henson is ecstatic for her “Empire” co-star Jussie Smollett.
In a surprising reversal announced Tuesday, prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett, 36, who was indicted last month in Chicago on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about being the victim of an alleged hate crime.
“I’m happy that the truth has finally been set free, because I knew it all along,” Henson told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “We’re all happy for him, and thank God the truth prevailed.”
Smollett, who is gay and black, filed a police report in late January claiming he was physically and verbally assaulted in Chicago in a racist and homophobic attack. Henson, 48, has stood by the actor since police alleged that he staged the crime himself, which ignited a media firestorm.
She’s always believed in his innocence, “because I know him and I know his track record,” Henson says. “I’m not going to jump on clickbait just because someone says something derogatory about a person I know and love. I’m not easily swayed like that. Those little clickbait (reports) weren’t enough to deter me from his immaculate track record. I know the type of activism this young man does in his community, I know that he’s a giver – he’s not an attention-seeker.
“When I know someone, there’s nothing you can say to make me flip on them, and that’s what we miss in this world. We need people that stand by us. Whatever happened to that? Why are we so easy to believe strangers over people we know?”
Henson says she has not yet spoken to Smollett about the dropped charges (“I’m sure his phone is jumping off the hook”), nor does she know of his plans to return to Fox’s “Empire.”
His character was written out of the final two episodes of the music drama’s fifth season, which has since wrapped production. Fox hasn’t announced whether Smollett will return to the show, but released a statement saying, “We are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed.”
It’s unclear what prompted the decision to clear the star, although the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said it was partly because of “his volunteer service in the community” and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago.
If there’s any lesson to be learned from Smollett’s case, Henson says, it’s that “we should absolutely believe victims. That’s why a lot of people, especially females, feel like they can’t come forward saying they’ve been raped. I believe that’s why we have a whole #MeToo movement, because women have felt they couldn’t come forward because they’d be criminalized in some way. Movements don’t just come out of the sky – movements happen because they’re needed. You have a group of people who haven’t been heard.”
SOURCE: USA Today – Patrick Ryan