Jussie Smollett Charged Again, Formally Indicted For Hate Crime Hoax
January 2019 saw a polar vortex hit the Chicago area, and it was around the same time Jussie Smollett’s name hit the national news for the being victim of an alleged hate crime in the city. Investigators eventually concluded that he fabricated the story and Smollett was charged with more than one dozen crimes.
After the Cook County prosecutor had the charges dropped and the case sealed, people cried foul, including the Chicago Police Department. However, it’s just been announced that this is not over for Smollett.
What happened to the original charges against Smollett?
At the time of the incident and resulting investigation, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct, The New York Times reported. For each count, he was facing up to three years in prison. But the state attorney’s office dropped the charges and he was never indicted.
The reason? The prosecutor cited that Smollett had no prior felony record and he didn’t see Smollett’s actions as being a threat to public safety. But Smollett then made a deal to perform community service and surrender his $10,000 bond as restitution. Prosecutors were quick to add that the deal did not mean he was exonerated of any crime.
The police department was angered and sued Smollett to recover the costs of the investigation, a case which is still in litigation.
Smollett indicted by grand jury
Last August, a special prosecutor was appointed to oversee a new investigation into the Smollett case as well as determine if the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx interfered in having the charges dropped. It’s said Foxx was connected to one of Smollett’s family members and Michelle Obama.
On Feb. 11, the new prosecutor, Dan Webb, announced Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on six felony counts of disorderly conduct, per The Associated Press. According to a statement from Webb, Smollett is being charged 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 hate crime.”
Webb’s office also found the Cook County Prosecutor’s Office unable to provide evidence justifying its dismissal of the original charges, a factor contributing to Smollett’s new indictment.
What’s next for Smollett
The former Empire actor’s attorneys continue to deny any wrongdoing on the part of their client and questioned the validity of the indictment. According to AP, one of the lawyers noted that the same detectives from the first investigation conducted this one in spite of the pending lawsuit Smollett filed against the city for malicious prosecution.
One of his other attorneys believes the timing of the indictment is suspicious based on Kim Foxx’s current re-election bid, and calls it politically motivated. If convicted, Smollett faces one to three years in prison for each count of disorderly conduct in addition to some fines.
Since the hoax accusations came to light last year, Smollett has not appeared on Empire and it is not clear if he has any additional acting projects lined up. He is due to appear in court on Feb. 24 for the new charges.