A special prosecutor who charged Jussie Smollett with six felonies on Tuesday said he is still investigating whether local prosecutors also engaged in wrongdoing in the case.
Dan Webb, a former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb, said in a statement accompanying the indictment that he has yet to determine “whether any person or office involved in the Smollett case engaged in wrongdoing, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (“CCSAO”) or individuals in that office.”
Webb accused Smollett, who is black and openly gay, of making four separate false reports to Chicago police related to his account of being the victim of a violent hate crime.
Smollett’s original case was dismissed on March 26, 2019, three weeks after the actor was first charged in a 16-count indictment. The move drew an outcry from then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city’s police superintendent, who branded the reversal a miscarriage of justice.
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The state’s attorney’s office said at the time that its decision to drop the charges as part of an agreement with Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.
Kim Foxx, the state’s attorney, who is running for reelection, claimed that she recused herself from the case after speaking to a relative of Smollett at the request of Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff. But she later said she only recused herself “in a colloquial sense.”
In August, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed Webb as a special prosecutor to review the case, which he earlier found had been handled improperly.
Dan Webb is just following orders in the Jussie Smollett case
The new indictment of Smollett capped a five-month probe by the special prosecutor. A Cook County grand jury returned the indictment after the special prosecutor found “reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett,” Webb said.
Smollett’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, said the special prosecutor’s use of police detectives who took part in the original investigation of her client raised “serious questions about the integrity” of his renewed prosecution.
The previous charges “were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence,” Glandian said. The attempt to prosecute Smollett anew ahead of the Cook County state’s attorney primary election next month “is clearly all about politics, not justice,” she said.
Smollett, 37, has insisted he told the truth when he reported that he was accosted on the street in January 2019 by two masked men who threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressions of support for President Donald Trump.
The allegations, which Smollett publicly detailed in an emotional interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last February, made national headlines. Many other celebrities, as well as activists, politicians and journalists rushed to condemn not just the attackers but the supposed state of Trump’s America.
Don’t worry Jussie, I just heard they indicted the guy who did this to you.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 11, 2020
How Jussie Smollett was indicted the first time
However, police arrested Smollett a month later, accusing the actor of paying two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in an effort to use the notoriety to advance his career.
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In April, the city of Chicago sued Smollett for $130,000 in costs related to investigating his allegations.
Smollett, who played a singer-songwriter on the Fox television hip-hop drama “Empire” before he was dropped from the show, sued the city of Chicago in November, accusing municipal officials of maliciously prosecuting him.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler; Pluralist contributed to this report.)