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On Tuesday, openly gay former Empire actor Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on six counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly making four separate false reports to the Chicago Police Department.
Smollett had claimed he was targeted and attacked by two men in January 2019 because of his sexual orientation, but police began highlighting irregularities in his statements that cast suspicion on his claims.
At the urging of law enforcement, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office pursued charges against Smollett accusing him of planning and participating in a staged hate crime attack, and then lying to police about it.
Two months later, Smollett was later indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct.
Those charges were dismissed just a few weeks later after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office said it had reviewed the case and decided to not only dismiss the charges, but would not require Smollett to admit any guilt of his wrongdoing.
The office imposed only minor penalties on Smollett, requiring him to forfeit his $10,000 bond to the city as restitution and perform 15 hours of community service, without having to participate in the office’s deferred prosecution program, which would have required a one-year period of court oversight.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had previously recused herself from the investigation prior to Smollett’s indictment, citing conversations she had with a Smollett family member, reports FOX 32 Chicago.
The dismissal of the charges rocked Chicago, sparking anger from then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who held a public press conference lambasting Smollett and demanding an apology for wasting city resources.
In August 2019, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Toomin appointed Dan Webb, a special prosecutor, to investigate the circumstances surrounding Smollett’s original indictment and the decision by the State’s Attorney’s Office to dismiss the charges.
Webb’s findings, which were made public on Tuesday, found that the grand jury’s investigation revealed that there was sufficient evidence to move forward with the charges against Smollett related to his alleged staging of the hate crime attack and lying to police.
As a result, Webb found that pursuing prosecution of Smollett would be “in the interest of justice,” according to a statement from Webb.
Regarding the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s decision to dismiss the charges, and whether any person inside the office engaged in any wrongdoing, Webb’s investigation remains ongoing and has not drawn any conclusions.
However, Webb claims that the State’s Attorney’s Office did not provide him with any additional evidence that would have justified a decision not to move forward with prosecution.
Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County prosecutors’ office, said in a statement that the dismissal came “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case.”
She called the dismissal “a just disposition and appropriate resolution,” but said it was not an exoneration, reports FOX 32.
Smollett’s defense lawyers insist that their client was indeed attacked by two unknown assailants, and “was a victim who was vilified and made to appears a perpetrator.”
Since the dismissal of the charges, Smollett’s attorneys have insisted that his record has been “wiped clean” and that he has “been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.”
Smollett claimed he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 on his way home from a Subway restaurant.
He said two masked men — at least one of whom was white, based on the skin around his eyes — shouted racial and anti-gay slurs, poured bleach on him, beat him, and placed a noose around his neck while shouting “This is MAGA country,” a reference to the campaign theme of President Donald Trump, of whom Smollett has been publicly critical.
Police later alleged that they believed his claims were false, and that he had lied because he was unhappy with his pay on Empire and believe the publicity would enhance his career.
Smollett is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 24.
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