CHICAGO—A grand jury returned a six-count indictment accusing actor Jussie Smollett of lying to Chicago police when he reported a racist and homophobic attack last year, a special prosecutor announced Tuesday.
Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct, special prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement.
Smollett, who is black and gay, was originally charged with disorderly conduct last February for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators. The charges were dropped the following month with little explanation, angering police officials and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Tina Glandian, Smollett’s attorney, did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.
Smollett told police he was walking home early on Jan. 29, 2019, when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing. He said his assailants, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in “MAGA country”—a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends $3,500 to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on “Empire” and wanted to drum up publicity for his career.
A judge in August appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, as a special prosecutor to look into why the original charges were dropped. Webb also was looking into whether calls that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had with a Smollett relative and an ex-aide of former first lady Michelle Obama unduly influenced the decision to drop charges. Foxx recused herself from the case but continued to weigh in.
The city has sued Smollett, seeking reimbursement of more than $130,000 for overtime paid to officers who were involved in investigating Smollett’s report. Smollett’s attorneys have said the city should not be allowed to recover costs from Smollett because it accepted $10,000 from the actor “as payment in full in connection with the dismissal of the charges against him.”
Smollett’s case has become an issue in Foxx’s bid for a second term. Her opponents have pointed to the case as indicating she has bad judgment and favors the rich and powerful in deciding who will be prosecuted.
By Don Babwin and Herb McCann