Actor Jussie Smollett is facing new charges related to allegations he staged a hoax hate crime last year. A special Cook County grand jury in Chicago indicted the “Empire” actor on six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the January 2019 “attack,” according to the indictment. The new charges come after a six-month investigation by a special prosecutor.
Smollett, who is black and gay, said he was assaulted by two men who yelled racist and anti-gay slurs on a Chicago street. But police have said Smollett paid two brothers in an elaborate attempt to stage an attack hoax. Police said he was unhappy with his salary on the hit show and wanted to garner publicity.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office initially charged Smollett last February on 16 counts related to lying to police, but the charges were dropped the following month after Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail and perform 16 hours of community service, CBS Chicago reported. Smollett did not admit guilt and has insisted he has been truthful.
The move to drop charges prompted an outcry from police and city officials. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a “whitewash of justice.”
Last August, a Cook County judge appointed Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor, as a special prosecutor in the Smollett case, the station reports. He was tasked with reviewing Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the case, and deciding whether Smollett should be further prosecuted.
In a statement obtained by CBS Chicago, Webb’s office said Smollett filed four separate false police reports claiming that he was the victim of a hate crime. Webb cited the “extensive nature” of those reports and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department in investigating them in his determination that further prosecution of Smollett was “in the interest of justice.”
“The grand jury’s investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred,” Webb said in a statement.
Webb said in the statement that his office “obtained sufficient factual evidence to determine that it disagrees with how the [Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office] resolved the Smollett case.” Webb said the office couldn’t provide evidence that it handled the case as it would any similar case. Webb also said he found nothing that would change the office’s conclusion of “strong” evidence against Smollett in the three weeks between the time he was charged and when the charges were dropped.
Foxx had previously recused herself from the case after she had conversations with one of Smollett’s relatives and an ex-aide to Michelle Obama before the charges were filed.
Webb said he reached no conclusion in his review of whether anyone at the office engaged in wrongdoing. The investigation remains ongoing.
Foxx is running for reelection this year, and in a statement Tuesday afternoon, her campaign questioned the timing of the indictment coming a month before the election, saying it “can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system.”
A lawyer for the two brothers who said Smollett paid to stage the attack — Abel and Ola Osundairo — said they are “fully committed to the public knowing the truth” and will continue to cooperate with investigators.
Tina Glandian, Smollett’s attorney, did not immediately return a call for comment from The Associated Press on Tuesday.