Actor Jussie Smollett is once again facing charges in Chicago in connection with a January 2019 police report in which he claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime.
Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on six disorderly conduct charges Tuesday, according to the office of Special Prosecutor Dan Webb. The 37-year-old actor is already facing a $130,000 lawsuit by the city of Chicago, the cost of the resources police and prosecutors claim it took to investigate Smollett’s false charge.
“A Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment charging Jussie Smollett with making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime,” the office said in a statement Tuesday.
The former “Empire” star told police in January 2019 that he was attacked by two men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him and wrapped a rope around his neck at about 2 a.m. in the upscale neighborhood of Streeterville.
Chicago police initially said they were looking into the attack as an alleged hate crime, but were unable to find any video evidence of the incident. After police interviewed two persons of interest in the case, Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, authorities shifted the investigation into whether the actor paid the brothers to stage an assault.
In February of last year, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for the allegedly false report he made with the police.
Former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson accused the actor of staging the attack on himself in order to “promote his career.” Police said Smollett paid the Osundairo brothers $3,500 to orchestrate the attack.
A grand jury indicted Smollett in March on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for making a false report but all charges were unexpectedly dropped just weeks later, angering police and some city officials.
Critics accused Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx of mishandling the Smollett case, and therefore undermining the public’s faith in the city’s criminal justice system.
Foxx initially recused herself from the case in February, saying it was because she had contact with one of Smollett’s family members about the case. But Foxx changed her story a few months later, just as her office was set to release unsealed documents in the case.
“False rumors circulated that I was related or somehow connected to the Smollett family, so I removed myself from all aspects of the investigation and prosecution and delegated my authority and responsibility to my first assistant so as to avoid even the perception of a conflict,” Foxx said in June.
A Cook County judge appointed Webb as the special prosecutor in the case in August.
The statement from Webb’s office said that several factors went into the decision to charge Smollett again, including the extensive nature of the allegedly false police reports and the resources spent by the police department.
The special prosecutor’s office also said its team “obtained sufficient factual evidence to determine that it disagrees” with the resolution to drop the charges by the Cook County State’s Attorney Office in exchange for Smollett forfeiting his bond and 15 hours of community service.
“The CCSAO decision-makers overseeing the Smollett resolution decision have not identified any new evidence they learned of between the time of indictment and dismissal of the indictment that changed their view that the evidence against Mr. Smollett was strong,” the statement read.
Smollett has denied making up the attack and is countersuing the city of Chicago. Foxx’s re-election campaign released a statement accusing the special prosecutor of intentionally timing the Smollett charges to interfere with her coming bid to retain the office of Cook County State’s Attorney.
“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,” Claudia Tristán, the campaign’s communications director, said.
Foxx is facing a primary challenge in her bid for re-election from former prosecutor Bill Conway, former 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti and ex-prosecutor Donna More.