CHICAGO — Jussie Smollett has been indicted by special prosecutor Dan Webb, nearly a year after charges against the former “Empire” actor for allegedly orchestrating a hoax attack on himself were dropped.
WGN has confirmed Smollett has been indicted on six counts, among them disorderly conduct, the same offense he was accused of in 2019.
In January of 2019, Smollett claimed he was the victim of a hateful attack in the touristy Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville. Police and prosecutors claimed that an investigation proved the alleged attack was a hoax.
The state’s attorney’s office charged Smollett in February, 2019 with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for purportedly orchestrating the incident. However, it dropped all of the charges a month later with little explanation, angering city officials and the police.
Smollett told police he was walking home early on Jan. 29, 2019 when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing. He said his assailants, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in “MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends $3,500 to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on “Empire” and wanted to drum up publicity for his career.
In March of 2019, however, all charges against Smollett were dropped.
A former state appellate judge, Sheila O’Brien, petitioned for a special prosecutor, leading to Judge Michael Toomin’s surprise ruling in June that one was warranted.
Toomin appointed Webb in August.
No warrant has been issued for Smollett’s arrest. He’s due in court Feb. 24.
Statement from Jussie Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian:
This indictment raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges against Mr. Smollett, not the least of which is the use of the same CPD detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack on Mr. Smollett to conduct the current investigation, despite Mr. Smollett’s pending civil claims against the City of Chicago and CPD officers for malicious prosecution. One of the two witnesses who testified before the grand jury is the very same detective Mr. Smollett is currently suing for his role in the initial prosecution of him.
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. 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.
Statement from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office:
As the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office does in all cases, the Special Prosecutor reviewed the facts, evidence, and the law, and determined charges were appropriate in this matter. We are unable to comment further as the matter is pending.
Friends for Foxx campaign statement on Special Prosecutor Dan Webb’s announcement:
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office charged Jussie Smollett with multiple counts, and today the Special Prosecutor did the same. What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive.