A grand jury in Chicago revived the criminal case against actor Jussie Smollett, indicting him Tuesday on charges that he staged a hate crime attack on himself a year ago. The indictment came 11 months after prosecutors dropped similar charges against him.
The new charges were announced by a special prosecutor, Dan Webb, who was assigned to the case after a judge ruled that the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had not properly handled it the first time.
In a rebuke to Ms. Foxx’s office, Mr. Webb criticized the decision by her prosecutors to abruptly drop the case, saying in a news release that his review of the record showed that her office had believed it had strong evidence against Mr. Smollett. Mr. Webb said the state’s attorney’s office had not offered any evidence showing that it had reason to believe Mr. Smollett was innocent, nor any documentary evidence that prosecutors relied on dispositions of similar cases to justify their decision.
Mr. Webb said that he had not reached any conclusions about whether prosecutors engaged in wrongdoing and that he was continuing to investigate.
Mr. Smollett, 37, was charged last February with filing a false police report after the Chicago police concluded that he had paid two brothers to stage an attack on him in which they shouted homophobic and racial slurs and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan. The police said Mr. Smollett was looking for publicity because he was unhappy with his salary on the television show Empire, which dropped him from the cast after his arrest.
The new indictment charges Mr. Smollett with six counts of disorderly conduct related to false statements to Chicago police officers.
Mr. Smollett’s case transfixed the country for weeks last year, first after reports that he had been the victim of a bigoted attack, eliciting messages of support from politicians, celebrities and civil rights groups. When the police revealed that Mr. Smollett was being investigated for possibly orchestrating the attack, the tone shifted.
The police had built a case based on surveillance camera footage, interviews with the brothers, text exchanges between the men and Mr. Smollett, and a cheque he had given them. None of the text exchanges explicitly mentioned a staged attack, and Mr. Smollett maintained that the money was to hire the brothers to physically train him for a coming video.