Caroline Goldstein
February 12, 2020 11:12 am

Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett has just been reindicted by a Chicago grand jury, effectively reopening his case after all initial charges against Smollett were dropped in March 2019. Special prosecutor Dan K. Webb announced the new charges yesterday, February 11th, as part of an independent investigation into how the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office handled the case.

According to a press release from the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the grand jury issued a six-count indictment charging Smollett with reporting four separate false claims “that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime” to the Chicago Police Department.

Smollett initially reported to police that he was the victim of a hate crime in January 2019, when he claimed that two men attacked him, poured a chemical substance over him, and tied a noose around his neck while yelling racial and homophobic slurs.

But during the investigation, Chicago police found evidence that Smollett had allegedly orchestrated the attack himself. In February, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett was “dissatisfied with his salary” for Empire so he “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.” Then in March, a Chicago grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts for staging and falsely reporting a hate crime—all of which were suddenly dropped later that month.

The dropped charges were concerning to many following the case (Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a “whitewash of justice” in a March 2019 press conference), and it led Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx to request a special investigation into how local prosecutors handled the case. The city of Chicago also sued Smollett, saying that he should pay the $130,000 in police overtime costs and a further $260,000 in damages.

Clearly, that special investigation is beginning to bear fruit.

Not only has the OSP recommended that Smollett be further prosecuted, but it also announced that it’s “obtained sufficient factual evidence to determine that it disagrees” with how the case was resolved.

The OSP is still continuing its investigation into whether any individual or office involved in the case “engaged in wrongdoing,” however.

Smollett himself has denied staging the attacks. In a March 2019 statement to the press outside the courtroom after initial charges were dropped, Smollett said, “I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”

However the Smollett case is resolved, it’s crucial that we not let this highly publicized case invalidate the very real, and increasing, incidents of hate crimes in the U.S.—and that we keep in mind that of the thousands of hate crimes reported each year (and the countless that go unreported), only a handful are hoaxes.

Smollett is scheduled to appear for his arraignment on February 24th in Chicago. We’ll be following the case as it continues to unfold.

Advertisement