Jussie Smollett has been indicted on new charges in relation to his claim last year that he was attacked by two men in Chicago who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him.
The indictment was handed down Tuesday after what police say was a five-month investigation led by prosecutor Dan Webb. Police allege that the former “Empire” star filed four false reports with police and claimed to be the victim of a hate crime.
It comes a year this month after Smollett was initially charged. Here's what to know about the attack Smollett said was orchestrated against him and what his attorneys are saying about these new new indictments.
The Alleged Hate Crime
Smollett, who is openly gay, said that on Jan. 29, 2019, he was leaving a Chicago restaurant about 2 a.m. when he was approached by two unknown men yelling racial and homophobic slurs, police said at the time. TMZ reported that Smollett said one man yelled yelled “Aren’t you that f****** ‘Empire’ n*****?”
After gaining Smollett’s attention, he said, the men wearing ski masks beat him and poured bleach on him. At one point during the attack, Smollett said, one of the suspects wrapped a rope around Smollett’s neck. Smollett also told police that one of the alleged assailants yelled “This is MAGA country.” It was believed at the time that both suspects were white, according to multiple news reports.
Chicago police initially said they were treating the alleged attack as a possible hate crime. The story received a lot of national media attention.
Security footage showed Smollett walking home that night with a rope around his neck and two men dressed in black who police said were persons of interest.
Three days after the attack, Smollett released a statement.
"I’m OK. My body is strong but my soul is stronger. I am working with authorities and have been 100 percent factual and consistent on every level. Despite my frustrations and deep concern, I still believe that justice will be served," he said.
A New Story Emerges
On Feb. 15, 2019, two Nigerian brothers were questioned in connection with the attack. They were identified asAbel Osundairo, 25, and Ola Osundairo, 27. Police said both had appeared on “Empire” and were linked to Smollett.
After searching their home, police found bleach, black face masks, a red hat, an “Empire” script, a laptop and receipts, authorities said at the time.
After an interrogation, the brothers were released because police say they told them that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, CBS News reported at the time. Police later said they believed Smollett staged the attack.
“The stunt was orchestrated because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters in a news conference. “Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
The actor denied any wrongdoing and maintained that he was the victim of a targeted attack.
Charges Dropped, Smollett Sues The City
Smollett’s charges were dropped in March by prosecutor Kim Foxx. She said in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune at the time that she didn’t know if there was enough evidence for a conviction.
“Yes, falsely reporting a hate crime makes me angry, and anyone who does that deserves the community’s outrage,” Foxx wrote. “But, as I’ve said since before I was elected, we must separate the people at whom we are angry from the people of whom we are afraid.”
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as Superintendent Johnson, were not pleased with the dropping of Smollett’s charges.
“You cannot have, because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and one set of rules apply to everybody else,” Emanuel said at the time.
Police mandated Smollett pay $10,000 after the criminal case was dropped, but city officials also suggested the actor should have to pay $130,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into the alleged attack.
In Nov. 2019, Smollett announced that he was filing a counter claim against the city, citing “malicious prosecution” and saying police filed charges “without probable cause.” That case is still pending.
Smollett Is Charged Again One Year Later
The city brought six new charges of disorderly conduct against Smollett a year, to the month, after the actor was first indicted related to the alleged attack.
“The grand jury’s investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred,” Webb said in a statement.
Smollett’s attorneys maintain that he is innocent and claim the new charges were brought on for political reasons.
“This indictment raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges against Mr. Smollett, not the least of which is the use of the same CPD detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack on Mr. Smollett to conduct the current investigation, despite Mr. Smollett’s pending civil claims against the City of Chicago and CPD officers for malicious prosecution. One of the two witnesses who testified before the grand jury is the very same detective Mr. Smollett is currently suing for his role in the initial prosecution of him,” Smollet’s attorney statement read.
His attorneys also said Smollett’s initial charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because evidence didn’t support them.
“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,” the statement continued.