Chicago Tribune | Feb 11, 2020 | 8:12 PM
After a year of scathing headlines, escalating legal battles and bizarre tabloid twists, former “Empire” actor will soon find himself in the same place he was last February — facing charges in a Cook County courtroom alleging he staged a hate crime on himself.
A special Cook County grand jury on Tuesday indicted the actor on six counts of disorderly conduct alleging he orchestrated the racist and homophobic attack on a frigid night in downtown Chicago.
The allegations were nearly identical to charges brought — and then mysteriously dropped — by Cook County prosecutors last year, adding more controversy to a case that’s sparked months of breathless international media coverage and become the defining issue in the upcoming state’s attorney primary election.
Smollett, 37, is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Feb. 24, nearly a year to the day that he appeared in the same courthouse to face the original charges.
In announcing the new indictment, special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was appointed six months ago to investigate all aspects of the Smollett investigation, said further prosecution of the actor was “in the interest of justice.”
“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 news release.
Among the factors that went into the decision were “the extensive nature” of Smollett’s falsehoods, the massive amount of time and money Chicago police put into the investigation, and the strength of the evidence cited by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s own prosecutors in bringing the original charges, the Webb statement continued.
Not only did prosecutors drop charges without requiring Smollett to admit guilt, he left the courtroom that day having been given credit for two days of community service he had already performed, and he paid no restitution except forfeiting $10,000 in bond money — less than 10% of the approximately $130,000 the police spent on overtime in the case, Webb noted.
In his statement, Webb said his investigation into the controversial way Foxx’s office handled the case is continuing, and that a final report would be issued to the court and Cook County Board of Commissioners.