March 6, 2020

USA: Actor Jussie Smollett Was Indicted Again On Six Counts Of Disorderly Conduct By Local Authorities For Faking A Hate Crime Against Himself That He Blamed On White Trump Supporters.

Chicago Tribune
written by Megan Crepeau and Jason Meisner
February 12, 2020

After a year of scathing headlines, escalating legal battles and bizarre tabloid twists, former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett 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.

The Smollett case has become a flashpoint in Foxx’s reelection campaign, with all three of her primary challengers using it to attack her credibility. Her opponents on Tuesday immediately jumped at the news that Smollett had again been indicted, with some calling on Foxx to resign.

Foxx’s campaign issued a statement blasting the “James Comey-like timing” of Webb’s decision to bring the charges, noting there are only 35 days until the primary election.

Comey, a former FBI director, was criticized by many for allegedly affecting the 2016 presidential election by announcing a new investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before voters went to the polls.

“(It) can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive," Foxx’s statement read.

For Smollett, meanwhile, the newly filed indictment means the actor must return to the same courthouse where he boldly declared his innocence just 11 months ago, telling reporters he had “been truthful and consistent from day one.”

The courthouse at 26th and California was buzzing with rumors all day Tuesday as word spread of potential charges. Courthouse mainstays had tracked the case closely, with prosecutors and defense attorneys alike saying they were baffled last March when the charges were dropped.

Now, the legal process for Smollett essentially begins anew — this time before a different set of prosecutors. Smollett will be assigned to a judge and enter a plea. His attorneys will likely wage a fierce battle in coming months over whether the new charges constitute double jeopardy.

In a statement, Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian cast doubt Tuesday on Webb’s investigation, saying the same Chicago detectives who handled the initial case also conducted Webb’s probe. She also echoed Foxx’s claim that the timing of the charges was politically motivated.

“The Office of the Special Prosecutor has not found any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Smollett,” Glandian stated. “Rather, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence.”

Webb was appointed to his post by Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in August with a broad mandate to probe every aspect of the Smollett case, including whether to bring further charges against the actor. He impaneled a grand jury late last year that has been hearing evidence from Webb’s law offices at Winston & Strawn.

The indictment returned Tuesday alleged Smollett made four separate false reports to Chicago police in the aftermath of the Jan. 29, 2019, incident in Chicago’s tony Streeterville neighborhood.

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told police he was attacked by two men as he was walking back home after getting a sandwich at a Subway restaurant. The men shouted slurs, poured a bleachlike substance on him and hung a noose around his neck, he told officers.

But the actor, best known for his now-ended role on Fox’s “Empire” TV show, eventually turned from victim to suspect, and in a Hollywood twist, police said that the entire incident was a hoax and that Smollett actually staged the assault from start to finish to bolster his career.

By the time charges were brought, Foxx had recused herself from overseeing the prosecution after revealing she had contact with a member of Smollett’s family early in the investigation at the request of Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff.

Foxx declined to provide details at the time, but communications later made public showed Foxx had asked then-Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn over the investigation to the FBI after she was approached by Tchen, a politically connected lawyer, about the case.

But other communications released to the Tribune after public-records requests showed Foxx claiming she recused herself because of false rumors that she was related to the actor, not any communications she'd had with his relatives.

Foxx also termed as “bull----” the explanation her own office gave for her withdrawal at the time, the texts show.

After the charges were abruptly dropped, Sheila O’Brien, a retired Illinois appellate judge, petitioned Toomin to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the handling of the investigation. After extensive legal arguments last summer, Toomin ruled that Foxx had the right to withdraw herself from overseeing the prosecution but held no legal authority to then delegate that responsibility to her top deputy.

With that deputy holding no real authority, the Smollett case made its way through the court system without a legitimate prosecutor at the helm, Toomin said, indicating that it was invalid from start to finish.

In a campaign ad in November, Foxx acknowledged she had fallen short in the Smollett matter but was vague on specifics. “Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,” she said.

Webb was careful on Tuesday to say that his decision to charge Smollett does not necessarily mean that anyone in Foxx’s office engaged in wrongdoing.

Webb has already determined, though, that his office “disagrees” with how the state’s attorney’s office handled the case, saying that despite public pronouncements that Smollett was treated the same way as other low-level offenders, prosecutors were “unable to provide” any evidence to back it up, his news release stated.

In addition, Cook County prosecutors couldn’t show Webb’s team any new evidence that arose between Smollett’s indictment and the day charges were dropped that would weaken the case against the actor.

Smollett’s attorneys have argued in previous court filings that any further charges would violate his rights against double jeopardy, particularly since he forfeited his bond when the case was dropped.

But that argument doesn’t hold water, veteran attorney Richard Kling told the Tribune on Tuesday. Double-jeopardy protections do not apply until a defendant has pleaded guilty or begun a trial.

“There was no jeopardy, there was no bench trial, there was no jury trial,” Kling said. “The law is absolutely etched in stone in terms of when jeopardy attaches.”
The Hollywood Reporter
written by Associated Press
Friday March 6, 2020

The actor's lawyers argued in an emergency petition that Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin overstepped his authority and misinterpreted the law when he ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor.
The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday refused to throw out charges against former Empire actor Jussie Smollett that accuse him of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself and rejected his effort to remove the special prosecutor in the case.

Smollett's lawyers argued in an emergency petition that Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin overstepped his authority and misinterpreted the law when he ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor. The court did not explain its decision to reject the arguments by Smollett's lawyers.

Smollett. 37, was initially accused by Cook County prosecutors of falsely reporting to police that the alleged phony attack was real. Sixteen counts of disorderly conduct originally filed against him were dismissed and Toomin found Smollett's first prosecution was invalid.

After another investigation by special prosecutor Dan Webb, six counts of the same charges we filed against Smollett, to which he pleaded not guilty last week.

Smollett, who is black and gay, 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."

Weeks later, police alleged Smollett paid two black friends to help stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on "Empire," a Fox series filmed in Chicago that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.

The friends, brothers Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, would be the state's star witnesses if Smollett's case makes it to trial. The brothers are bodybuilders and aspiring actors whom Smollett knew from the Empire set and the gym.
👇 LGBT activist and former President of Human Rights Campaign
still has not deleted this tweet from last year. 👇

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