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Jussie Smollett indicted on new charges related to alleged hate crime hoax

Cops release new videos in Smollett case

Actor Jussie Smollett is facing new charges related to allegations he staged a hoax hate crime last year. A special Cook County grand jury in Chicago indicted the "Empire" actor on six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about the January 2019 "attack," according to the indictment. The new charges come after a six-month investigation by a special prosecutor.

Smollett, who is black and gay, said he was assaulted by two men who yelled racist and anti-gay slurs on a Chicago street. But police have said Smollett paid two brothers in an elaborate attempt to stage an attack hoax. Police said he was unhappy with his salary on the hit show and wanted to garner publicity.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office initially charged Smollett last February on 16 counts related to lying to police, but the charges were dropped the following month after Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail and perform 16 hours of community service, CBS Chicago reported. Smollett did not admit guilt and has insisted he has been truthful.

The move to drop charges prompted an outcry from police and city officials. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it a "whitewash of justice."

Last August, a Cook County judge appointed Dan Webb, a former federal prosecutor, as a special prosecutor in the Smollett case, the station reports. He was tasked with reviewing Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's handling of the case, and deciding whether Smollett should be further prosecuted.

In a statement obtained by CBS Chicago, Webb's office said Smollett filed four separate false police reports claiming that he was the victim of a hate crime. Webb cited the "extensive nature" of those reports and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department in investigating them in his determination that further prosecution of Smollett was "in the interest of justice."

"The grand jury's investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred," Webb said in a statement.

Webb said in the statement that his office "obtained sufficient factual evidence to determine that it disagrees with how the [Cook County State's Attorney's Office] resolved the Smollett case." Webb said the office couldn't provide evidence that it handled the case as it would any similar case. Webb also said he found nothing that would change the office's conclusion of "strong" evidence against Smollett in the three weeks between the time he was charged and when the charges were dropped.

Foxx had previously recused herself from the case after she had conversations with one of Smollett's relatives and an ex-aide to Michelle Obama before the charges were filed.   

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett after his court appearance on March 26, 2019, in Chicago. Getty

Webb said he reached no conclusion in his review of whether anyone at the office engaged in wrongdoing. The investigation remains ongoing.

Foxx is running for reelection this year, and in a statement Tuesday afternoon, her campaign questioned the timing of the indictment coming a month before the election, saying it "can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system."

A lawyer for the two brothers who said Smollett paid to stage the attack — Abel and Ola Osundairo — said they are "fully committed to the public knowing the truth" and will continue to cooperate with investigators.  

Tina Glandian, Smollett's attorney, slammed the indictment in a statement to CBS News.   

"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," Glandian said. "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."  

"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," Glandian added. "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." 

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