Jussie Smollett is once again facing charges in Chicago that he staged a hate crime on himself more than a year ago.
On Tuesday, 11 months after such charges were initially dropped, Cook County special prosecutor Dan K. Webb announced in a news release that the former Empire star has been indicted by a grand jury.
“Based on the recommendation of the [Office of the Special Prosecutor], 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 news release said.
In January 2019, Smollett told police he was attacked when two unknown masked offenders approached him, yelling out racial and homophobic slurs. (Smollett would later say they also mentioned President Donald Trump’s slogan “MAGA”.) Smollett said the men attacked him, poured an unknown chemical substance on him, and wrapped a rope around his neck.
Less than a month later, Smollett was charged with a felony for filing a false police report. Police believed that Smollett staged the attack with two known associates. The actor was soon removed from the final two episodes of Empire’s fifth season and eventually written off, with co-creator Lee Daniels declaring that he would not be brought back for the current final season.
In a shocking development, all charges against Smollett were dropped last March. Speaking outside the courtroom, the Empire star maintained his innocence, saying, “I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I have been accused of.”
The Cook County State Attorney’s Office said in a statement at the time, “After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution.”
But that left many in the city outraged, including the police superintendent and Rahm Emanuel, the mayor at the time. Webb was then appointed special prosecutor to investigate the decision to drop charges.
In a statement provided to EW on Tuesday, Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian said, “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. And 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.”
The statement continued, “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.”
Smollett is due in court Feb. 24.
This article has been updated to include a statement from Smollett’s attorney.