Special prosecutor Dan Webb filed new charges Tuesday against former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in connection with the alleged attack in Streeterville in January 2019, saying further prosecution is “in the interest of justice.”
Webb released a statement, on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, saying a Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Smollett, charging him with making four separate false reports to Chicago police “related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing he was not the victim of a crime.”
Webb said he has arranged with Smollett’s lawyers to have the actor turn himself in for his arraignment on Feb. 24 at 9:30 a.m.
Last year Smollett claimed he had been attacked by two men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him. He was originally charged with 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the alleged attack. Police said Smollett staged the attack on himself because he was unhappy with his “Empire” salary.
Police and prosecutors said Smollett orchestrated the attack with the help of the Osundairo brothers. One brother was an extra on “Empire” and the other was Smollett’s personal trainer.
The Osundairo brothers released a statement on the new charges, saying, “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.”
All charges against Smollett were dropped in late February 2019 in exchange for community service and forfeiture of his $10,000 bond payment.
Webb, a former US Attorney in Chicago, was appointed as special prosecutor after the charges were dropped to review the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s decision.
In an interview with the I-Team in November 2019, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx suggested that Smollett was treated in a manner consistent with defendants in cases like his. But Webb said the state’s attorney has been unable to provide evidence of similarly handled cases, and that he disagrees with how she resolved the case.
“Realistically the only thing which makes it unique is it’s a star, is somebody who was a notorious person, somebody who was a superstar,” said Professor Richard Kling, University of Chicago Kent College of Law. “Other than that, it’s your run-of-the-mill case, it’s a disorderly conduct. It’s a class four felony. People are charged every single day with filing false police reports. And they end up going on their very merry ways.”
Further prosecution of Smollett is “in the interest of justice,” Webb said in a lengthy statement.
Webb said his investigation was into whether Smollett should be further prosecuted for alleged false police reports, and whether any person or office involved in the investigation engaged in any wrongdoing, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
He said he “disagrees with the state’s attorney’s” original decision to drop the charges against Smollett after he was initially indicted, said he found the evidence “was strong” and that the state’s attorney provided no proof there was no evidence that would have justified dropping the case against the actor, or previous similar case history.
He said he has not yet reached any conclusions as to the second part of the investigation, including in regards to the State’s Attorney’s Office, and that his investigation into whether any person or office involved in the investigation engaged in wrongdoing is ongoing.
Smollett’s legal team released a statement, saying in part, “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.”
The city of Chicago also released a statement, saying, “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 the original investigation.”
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