Jussie Smollett Indicted Again, This Time By Special Prosecutor
Updated at 7:07 p.m.
Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett was indicted Tuesday in Chicago — again.
This time it’s special prosecutor Dan Webb who’s accusing Smollett of lying to police about two masked men attacking him in Streeterville on Jan. 29, 2019. Smollett now faces six counts of disorderly conduct.
“Several factors went into this determination, including the extensive nature of Mr. Smollett’s false police reports and the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department to investigate these false reports,” according to a written statement from Webb’s office.
The new charges will provide more fuel for Democratic challengers to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who has been widely criticized for dropping all charges in 2019.
Foxx's campaign issued a biting statement Tuesday comparing the new charges to former FBI Director James Comey's decision to briefly reopen an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's email shortly before the presidential election in 2016 that Donald Trump would win.
"What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision … which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive," said the statement from Friends for Foxx.
Politics aside, both Foxx and Webb’s investigation centered on Smollett’s statements to police that two men yelled racist and anti-gay slurs as they poured bleach on him and looped a noose around his neck.
After a month-long police investigation, Smollet was charged last February with 16 felony counts related to filing a false police report. But Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped all charges with little explanation a month later, prompting a rare fiery outburst from then-Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson about how the actor wasted city resources.
Authorities have said Smollett made up the story to promote his career because he was unhappy with his pay on Empire. The actor stands by his story and has maintained his innocence.
The fallout: Lawsuits, special prosecutors and the campaign trail
Over the past year, the high-profile case has led to lawsuits, countersuits, special investigators and calls for Foxx to resign.
In a surprise decision last June, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin ruled that a special prosecutor was called for because of the "unprecedented irregularities" in how the case had been handled. Toomin tapped Webb a month later to lead the investigation.
But in addition to looking at Smollett’s claims, Webb was also told to examine how the state’s attorney’s office handled the case after revelations that Foxx had talked to a Smollett relative and an ex-aide to former first lady Michelle Obama. Those conversations prompted Foxx to publicly recuse herself from the case, but it was later revealed that, privately, she continued to weigh in.
On Tuesday, Webb said in the statement that he has reached “no conclusions” as to whether “any person or office involved in the Smollett case engaged in wrongdoing.” The statement notes that the decision to prosecute Smollett now is not evidence of past wrongdoing by anyone in Foxx’s office.
But Foxx’s decision to drop the charges will remain a heated issue in her bid for a second term.
Foxx, who is facing three challengers in the March primary election, has said her office “could have done a much better job” communicating to the public about the case.
Her opponents have pointed to the case as an indication she has bad judgment and favors the rich and powerful in deciding who will be prosecuted.
Last month, Smollett dominated a one-hour forum of Democratic candidates for state’s attorney hosted by the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Foxx will face former assistant state’s attorney Bill Conway, former federal prosecutor Donna More and former Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti in the March 17 primary.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.