Special prosecutor Dan K. Webb decided to prosecute after “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,” according to a statement.
Smollett is due in court Feb. 24.
Lawyers for Smollett suggested the indictment was politically motivated (Foxx faces re-election in March). They also said in a statement that the initial charges “were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence.”
The case has taken several turns since Smollett, who is gay and black, first told Chicago police of a horrific late-night attack by two individuals yelling homophobic and racist slurs while invoking President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. News of the incident immediately attracted widespread attention.
But soon the subject of the investigation turned to Smollett, leading to political fallout that rocked Chicago and beyond, causing everyone from the president to late-night comedians to weigh in on the controversy.
Foxx recused herself from the investigation and handed it to the state’s attorney first assistant, Joe Magats. In March 2019, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts for allegedly lying to police. But then in an astonishing reversal, prosecutors dismissed the charges, citing the actor’s history of volunteer work (including the two days of community service he performed after his arrest) and his agreement to forfeit his $10,000 bond to the city.
Other Chicago officials rebuked the decision. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said it was “without a doubt, a whitewash of justice.” Then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett and his attorneys “chose to hide behind secrecy and broker a deal to circumvent the judicial system.” (Johnson was fired in December by current mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who cited “a series of ethical lapses.”)
Since then, the city of Chicago has sued Smollett, seeking repayment of costs incurred in investigating his original complaint. Smollett countersued for “malicious prosecution.”
The case has also become a flash point in Foxx’s reelection campaign. “Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,” Foxx (D) said in a campaign video. She will face off against three challengers in the March 17 primary.
In a statement, Webb emphasized that the indictment against Smollett is not evidence “in and of itself” of wrongdoing by the state’s attorney’s office, but that his investigation into the office is ongoing.
This story has been updated.