A grand jury in Chicago revived the criminal case against actor Jussie Smollett, indicting him Tuesday on charges that he lied to the police in connection with the alleged hate crime attack against him a year ago. The indictment came 11 months after prosecutors dropped similar charges against him.
The new charges were announced by a special prosecutor, Dan K. Webb, who was assigned to the case after a judge ruled that the Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, had not properly handled it the first time.
In a rebuke to Foxx’s office, Webb criticized the decision by her prosecutors to abruptly drop the case, saying in a news release that his review of the record showed that her office had believed it had strong evidence against Smollett. Webb said the state’s attorney’s office had not offered any evidence showing that it had gained new information indicating Smollett’s innocence, nor any documentation that similar cases had been handled the same way.
Webb said that he had not reached any conclusions about whether prosecutors engaged in wrongdoing and that he was continuing to investigate.
Smollett, 37, was charged last February with filing a false police report after the Chicago police concluded that he had paid two brothers to stage an attack on him in which they shouted homophobic and racial slurs and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
The police said Smollett was looking for publicity because he was unhappy with his salary on the television show “Empire,” which dropped him from the cast after his arrest.
The new indictment charges Smollett with six counts of disorderly conduct related to false statements to Chicago police officers.
Smollett’s case transfixed the country for weeks last year, first after reports that he had been the victim of a bigoted attack, eliciting messages of support from politicians, celebrities and civil rights groups. When the police revealed that Smollett was being investigated for possibly orchestrating the attack, the tone shifted.
The police had built a case based on surveillance camera footage, interviews with the brothers, text exchanges between the men and Smollett, and a check he had given them. None of the text exchanges explicitly mentioned a staged attack, and Smollett maintained that the money was to hire the brothers to physically train him for an upcoming video.