Back in January of 2019, the world was stunned by reports that Empire actor Jussie Smollett had been attacked by two men while walking home to his Chicago apartment late at night.
The details of the assault were horrific:
Smollett told police that his white assailants poured bleach on him, tied a noose around his neck, and screamed racial epithets as they kicked and punched him.
Needless to say, the incident had all the hallmarks of a racially-motivated hate crime, and public figures from politicians to fellow celebrities posted words of support and demands for justice on social media.
Then something unexpected happen — Smollett’s story began to unravel.
A Chicago Police investigation uncovered evidence that Smollett had hired two Empire extras — both black men — to help him stage a fake attack.
As evidence against the actor mounted, Smollett was fired from Empire, and a criminal trial seemed to be a certainty.
But then, his case took another unexpected turn, as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx abruptly dropped all charges against the politically well-connected TV star.
For a while, it appeared that Smollett was in the clear.
This week, however, Dan Webb — the special prosecutor who was appointed to Smollett’s case over the summer — announced that Smollett has been indicted on six new charges, all of them related to allegations that he lied to police.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Webb alleges that Smollet, “planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Dept. officers.”
Smollett is set to be arraigned on February 24.
If he’s convicted of all the charges against him, he faces three years in state prison.
But Smollett’s most ardent defenders, including the state’s attorney who dropped the charges against him last year, are accusing Webb of being motivated by the possibility of political gain.
“What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the judicial system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive.” Foxx says.
“The officers who re-investigated the case are the same ones who originally investigated it. These officers are currently being sued by Smollett,” an anonymous source connected to Smollett tells a Chicago news outlet.
“The attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State’s Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice.” says Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian.
“After more than five months of investigation, the Office of the Special Prosecutor has not found any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Smollett,” Glandian continues.
Rather, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence.”
Glandian is doing what defense attorneys do, but as many have pointed out, the charges against Smollett were dismissed in an unusually abrupt fashion, and were it not for his celebrity, his case would almost have at least gone to trial.
Which is not to say, of course, that the decision to indict is not politically motivated.
We’ll keep you updated on this developing story as more information becomes available.