Charges against former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett could be reinstated under “reasonable grounds,” a Cook County judge ruled on Friday.
Judge Michael Toomin said a special prosecutor should be appointed in the case of the actor, who was charged with 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a hate crime attack against himself for publicity, CBS Chicago reported. The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dismissed all charges against Smollett in March.
The yet-to-be-appointed special prosecutor would be permitted to bring new charges against the beleaguered celebrity.
Toomin’s ruling contained a scathing rebuke to Foxx, who assigned the case to First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats after announcing she’d recused herself. According to the judge, Foxx had no authority to turn the case over to Magats.
“What causes concerns is that she appointed him to an entity that had and has no legal existence. There is no office of acting state’s attorney,” he said.
In his ruling, Toomin wrote that the “ship of the State ventured from its protected harbor without the guiding hand of its captain.”
“There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it floundered through unchartered waters,” he added.
The judge determined that because there was no state’s attorney throughout the process leading up to Smollett’s charges being dropped, the decisions made at each pass were invalid.
“The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” he wrote.
The Jussie Smollett case
Smollett, 36, black and gay former star of Fox’s “Empire” TV show, reported to the Chicago Police Department on Jan. 29 that he was assaulted by two masked men who called him racist and homophobic slurs and shouted “This is ‘MAGA’ country!” He said his assailants poured what he believed was bleach on him and put a noose around his neck.
Police at first investigated the incident as a possible hate crime, and many other celebrities, activists, politicians, and journalists rushed to condemn not just the attackers but the supposed state of President Donald Trump’s America.
In February, Smollett was arrested and charged with staging the crime in an apparent effort to garner attention and sympathy. Fox would cut ties with the actor shortly after, removing him from the final two episodes of the season.