Jussie Smollett returned to court in Chicago on Monday to be arraigned on felony charges alleging that he lied to police over a ‘hoax’ attack he was accused of making up last January.
Smollett, 37, is expected to plead not guilty to the six counts of felony disorderly conduct during Monday’s hearing.
He pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of the charge in the same courthouse last year, just weeks before the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly announced it was dismissing the case, angering police and City Hall.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed to examine the state’s attorney’s office’s handling of the case, is expected to attend. Foxx’s office is not involved in the new case against Smollett.
Smollett, who has denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career, will first appear before Chief Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., who will tell him which judge will be assigned to preside over the case.
Jussie Smollett arrives at Cook County courthouse on Monday with his brother, Jocqui (left), Jojo (far left) and Jake (right) to face six felony counts of lying to police
The actor was flanked by members of his family including his sister-in-law Lala (front) and lawyers. He said nothing as hecklers called for ‘justice’ on his way into the building
The 37-year-old is expected to plead not guilty across the board
Martin could order Smollett to return to court on another day for his first hearing before that judge, but it is more likely that he will simply tell the actor and the attorneys to immediately report to the trial judge.
Smollett told police that two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019. He said they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, and that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in ‘MAGA country,’ a reference to President Donald Trump´s campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’
He also said they called him the N-word.
Nigerian brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo were then identified by police as the people he’d said attacked him. The pair knew Smollett and told the authorities he paid them to attack him in a staged incident to allegedly boost his celebrity profile and salary.
Smollett was then hit with a 16-count grand jury indictment and faced more than 50 years behind bars — until State’s Attorney Kim Foxx suddenly dropped all the charges last March in exchange for him doing community service.
It was a decision that blindsided and outraged Chicago’s former mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chief of Police Eddie Johnson.
Smollett walked into the courthouse in the middle of a huddle of his relatives and lawyers
Smollett’ sisters, Jurnee (left) and Jazz (right) also accompanied him to court
Smollett, who has all along insisted he is innocent, then sued the city for malicious prosecution.
His attorney Tina Glandian issued a statement Tuesday saying: ‘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.’
There have been various rounds of civil litigation, but the cases have been delayed because it has been so difficult to identify an impartial prosecutor.
Webb was eventually brought in to examine the case.
The saga began on January 30 last year when it emerged that Smollett claimed he had been the victim of a racist, anti-gay attack.
At the time, it seemed he had been walking home from Subway in the middle of the night after returning home late on a delayed flight when he was approached.
He told police afterwards his attackers identified him from the show he was on, Empire, and called him both the N-word and ‘f****t’.
He said they beat him, poured bleach on him then put a noose around his neck.
Smollett went back to his apartment where his friend, Frank Gaston, was. It was Gaston who insisted they call police.
Smollet pictured suffering injuries to his face in the hospital after the alleged attack
Brothers Abel (left) and Ola (right) Osundairo told police Smollett paid them to stage the attack
When officers arrived, the actor refused to hand over his phone.
He went to the hospital to be checked over but had no major injuries.
The Chicago Police Department vowed to investigate the incident with all its might, and celebrities around the world rushed to share their support of Smollett.
He became a household name almost overnight.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb was appointed in August to examine what occurred in the case
But as the police investigation progressed, leaks began from within the police department that all may not have been as it seemed.
As the controversy grew, Smollett – determined to make his case – went on Good Morning America where he cried and insisted he was telling the truth.
By then, Chicago PD had released grainy surveillance camera footage of two men walking near the scene of the incident itself which was among the only part of his journey not captured on Chicago’s vast network of security cameras that night.
Smollett unequivocally identified the two men in the grainy footage as his attackers.
Neither their faces nor skin color could be made out in it.
Unbeknownst to him while he was conducting his GMA interview, the Chicago PD was building a case against him.
They had identified the people in the video as the Osundairo brothers and had backed-up their belief by tracking the pair’s movements in the days and hours both before and after the incident.
Smollett was eventually arrested and charged with suspicion of lying to police.
The brothers flew to Nigeria within hours of the January 29 incident and missed the media storm which followed
When they landed back in the US, police investigators were waiting to question them.
After hours of secret interviews, they told cops that Smollett had paid them to carry out the attack as part of an elaborate hoax.
Smollett was then arrested.
In an extraordinary press conference afterwards, then police chief Eddie Gallagher accused him of inflaming race relations in Chicago and of wasting police time.
He bellowed that Smollett had tried to leverage the ‘attack’ to get his bosses at Empire to pay him more.
Despite police outrage, prosecutor Kim Foxx was quiet.
The case then went to a grand jury which returned a stunning, 16-felony indictment that would have put Smollett behind bars for more than 50 years if he had been convicted.
By then, Foxx had informally recused herself from the case.
Her conflict of interest was that in the early days of the police investigation, she intervened at the request of Smollett’s family and their friend – Time’s Up CEO Tina Tchen – who wanted the FBI to take over the police investigation.
They said they were worried by the number of leaks that had come from the Chicago PD and asked Foxx to help. She said she would try.
After the grand jury indictment, the case stalled for a few weeks.
Then, in March, Foxx’s deputy Joseph Magats – who had taken over – announced the decision that the charges against Smollett had been dropped.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT TIMELINE
January 29: The ‘hoax’ attack outside Smollett’s apartment in Chicago occurs.
January 30: A wave of public sympathy rushes over Smollett, until then a relatively unknown actor
February 14: After a series of unfavorable leaks from the Chicago PD, Smollett goes on Good Morning America to plead his case.
Unbeknownst to him, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo are being interviewed by police after returning from Nigeria.
February 20: Smollett is arrested and accused of lying to police.
He is bailed out on a $10,000 cash bond.
March 7: Grand jury indicted Smollett
March 26: Charges dropped
April 11: Chicago sues Smollett for $130,000 – the cost of the investigation
August: Dan Webb is appointed special prosecutor
November: Smollett counter-sues, alleging malicious prosecution
February 11, 2020: Reports emerge that Dan Webb has charged Smollett
Foxx had intervened again, it emerged, and pointed to what they called ‘alternative prosecution’ whereby Smollett, a first-time offender, was let off with a $10,000 bail forfeiture and community service.
There was outrage and calls for Foxx to be investigated herself for prosecutorial misconduct.
As judges and special prosecutors for that task were tossed around, the city came out swinging in civil court. They sued Smollett, asking him to reimburse them for all the money they said they’d wasted investigating what they believed were bogus claims.
Smollett counter-sued, accusing the city and Eddie Gallagher of malicious prosecution. He lost his job on Empire and became a pariah in the showbiz world he was allegedly trying to ascend through.
Webb was appointed in August to investigate why Foxx’s office had dropped the charges.
He himself faced criticism and claims of another conflict of interest when it emerged he had donated $1,000 to Foxx’s re-election campaign once.
This week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said he had to be prosecuted ‘to the fullest extent of the law’.
‘He needs to face the charges.
‘He committed a crime, and he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we are going to continue to aggressively make him accountable for the wasted police resources that went into investigating what turned out to be a total hoax,’