Jussie Smollett indicted on 6 counts for allegedly lying to police about attack claims
By: Mariah Haas
Jussie Smollett has been indicted by a grand jury on six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about his claims of a racist and homophobic attack against him in January 2019, a special prosecutor said Tuesday.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb issued a statement announcing the indictment against the 37-year-old former "Empire" star.
The actor is due in court on Feb. 24, Fox 32 reported citing a source.
Smollett, who is black and gay, originally was charged last year with disorderly conduct for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators. The charges were dropped in March 2019 with little explanation, angering police officials and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in August appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, as a special prosecutor to look into why the charges were dropped. Webb was also charged with looking into whether Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's calls with a Smollett relative and an ex-aide of former first lady Michelle Obama unduly influenced the decision to drop charges. Foxx recused herself from the case but continued to weigh in.
On Tuesday, Foxx's campaign for re-election said in a statement: "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."
In January 2019, Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men as he was walking home from a Chicago Subway sandwich shop at approximately 2 a.m. The actor alleged that the masked men taunted him with homophobic and racial slurs, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.
He said his attackers, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in "MAGA country" — a reference to President Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
In February 2019, police determined that Smollett's masked attackers were brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, who trained Smollett and worked with him on "Empire." Investigators also identified the brothers as those on surveillance video buying the rope that reportedly was hung around the actor's neck during the alleged attack.
After an intense investigation, police said they determined Smollett staged the entire episode with the help of two brothers, whom he paid to take part in the hoax assault, in an elaborate effort to drum up publicity for his middling career. After prosecutors dropped the case in March, Smollett maintained his innocence but agreed to let officials keep a $10,000 bail.
He then was charged with filing a false police report, but Foxx's office dropped the charges a few weeks later.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Osundairo brothers' attorney Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, said: "The Osundairo brothers are aware of the new charges brought against Jussie Smollett today by the grand jury. As stated before, they are fully committed to the public knowing the truth about what occurred on January 29, 2019. The Osundairo brothers will continue to cooperate with that process and they thank the Special Prosecutor’s office for their tireless work in seeing that justice was administered."
Also Tuesday, Kathy Fieweger, the director of public affairs for the City of Chicago Department of Law, said in a statement: "We look forward to reviewing the indictment and, as we have said previously, the City stands by our original complaint seeking to recover costs for Mr. Smollett's false statements. We again thank the Chicago Police Department detectives for their hard work on this case the original investigation."
The city has sued Smollett, seeking reimbursement exceeding $130,000 for overtime paid to officers who were involved in investigating Smollett's report. Smollett's attorneys have said the city should not be allowed to recover costs from Smollett because it accepted $10,000 from the actor "as payment in full in connection with the dismissal of the charges against him."