A judge in Chicago on Thursday ordered the file in the Jussie Smollett criminal case unsealed. Cook County Judge Steven Watkins said the “Empire” actor forfeited his rights to keep the case sealed by speaking to the media before and after prosecutors dismissed the charges against him. The file wasn’t immediately released.
Smollett “voluntarily appeared on national television for an interview speaking about the incident in detail,” the judge wrote. “After the March 26 dismissal, he voluntarily stood in front of cameras from numerous news organizations in the courthouse lobby and spoke about the case. On several occasions, attorneys for defendant, presumably with his authorization, appeared on various media outlets speaking about the case.”
The judge added, “These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply to be let alone.”
Smollett had been charged with 16 counts alleging he lied to police when reporting he’d been the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in January. Police insist the actor, who is black and gay, staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted publicity. Prosecutors dropped all charges with little explanation.
Smollett’s lawyers had argued that since the case was dropped, Smollett had “the right to be left alone.” The judge disagreed.
Natalie Spears, an attorney representing media organizations that wanted the file unsealed, applauded Watkins’ decision Thursday. “This is about transparency and trust in the system and we believe the public has a right to know what the government did and why,” she said after the hearing.
In April, Fox announced it would move forward with a sixth season of “Empire” without Smollett’s character.
(This story was originally published on CBS News on May 23 at 3:27 p.m. ET)