Jussie Smollett has been hit with a six-count indictment accusing him of faking a hate crime last year.
The indictment comes 11 months after the state’s attorney’s office dropped charges against the “Empire” actor in a controversial deal. Smollett is due in court on Feb. 24.
Dan K. Webb, a retired U.S. attorney, was appointed as a special prosecutor in August to review the case. In a statement Tuesday, Webb said he had filed the charges “in the interest of justice.”
“Several factors went into this determination, including the extensive nature of Mr. Smollett’s false police reports, and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department to investigate these false reports,” Webb said in the statement.
Webb also noted that the state’s attorney’s office had failed to offer a good reason for dismissing the charges, and said a full report on the prosecutors’ conduct would be issued later.
Smollett’s criminal attorney, Tina Glandian, said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the indictment raises “serious questions about the integrity of the investigation,” noting that the special prosecutor relied on the same Chicago detectives who conducted the original investigation. She noted that Smollett is suing one of the detectives who testified against him to the grand jury,
“After more than five months of investigation, the Office of the Special Prosecutor has not found any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Smollett,” Glandian said. “Rather, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence. The attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State’s Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice.”
Smollett is accused of lying to Chicago police detectives about an assault on Jan. 29, 2019. Smollett claimed that he was attacked by unknown assailants who poured bleach on him, put a rope around his neck, and used racial and homophobic epithets. He also claimed that one of his attackers shouted that this was “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Detectives later determined that Smollett had paid two brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, to carry out the attack. He was dropped from the final season of his Fox TV show, “Empire.” Smollett adamantly denied the allegations and maintained his innocence.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office indicted Smollett on 16 counts of filing a false statement. But in a shocking reversal, the office dropped all charges in exchange for the forfeiture of a $10,000 bond. Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney, faced allegations that she cut a sweetheart deal for the actor.
A retired judge then filed a suit, asking for the appointment of a special prosecutor to take another look at the case. In June of last year, Judge Michael Toomin agreed, saying that Foxx’s office had failed to fully recuse itself from the decision.
The City of Chicago has also sued Smollett to recover the cost of police overtime expended during the extensive investigation, which involved tracking taxi and rideshare records, and examining many hours of surveillance video.
Foxx is running for a second term, and is facing three opponents in the March 17 Democratic primary. Her opponents have criticized her handling of the case, and Foxx has admitted to a “lack of transparency” in dealing with the matter.