Jussie Smollett sues Chicago for malicious prosecution

(Reuters) – The actor Jussie Smollett has sued the city of Chicago and multiple police officers for malicious prosecution, claiming they caused him economic harm, mental anguish and distress.

Smollett made his accusation in a counterclaim made public on Wednesday, in a lawsuit where the city sought to recoup costs for investigating his alleged false claim that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic beating on a Chicago street.

Chicago had sued Smollett in April, and the lawsuit is pending in Chicago federal court.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Special prosecutor to review actor Jussie Smollett’s case: judge

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett appears at a hearing for judge assignment with his attorney Tina Glandian (L), at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 14, 2019. E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

By Brendan O’Brien

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A judge in Chicago on Friday named a special prosecutor to probe the case involving former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s allegation that he was the victim of a racist attack, which authorities have ruled a hoax.

Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to investigate the case.

Smollett, who is black, gay and best known for his role on the Fox Television hip-hop drama “Empire,” told police on Jan. 29 that two masked men threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressing support for Republican U.S. President Donald Trump.

Toomin said Webb, who won a conviction of one of former President Ronald Reagan’s advisers for his role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal and now serves as co-executive chairman of one of Chicago’s largest law firms, was “guided by a strong moral compass and integrity.”

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb takes the oath of special prosecutor during a status hearing concerning actor Jussie Smollett at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. August 23, 2019. Antonio Perez/Pool via REUTERS.

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb takes the oath of special prosecutor during a status hearing concerning actor Jussie Smollett at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. August 23, 2019. Antonio Perez/Pool via REUTERS.

“We are honored to play a role in helping, as Judge Toomin said in a recent order, to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Webb said in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday.

Webb said he intends to request a special grand jury to hear evidence on whether any people or offices previously handling the case had committed wrongdoing and whether there are further grounds to prosecute Smollett.

A month after Smollett made the allegation, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx charged him with filing a false police report and accused him of paying $3,500 to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy.

Smollett has denied staging the attack.

In March, to the shock and dismay of local politicians and police officials, Foxx’s office dropped the charges, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

Foxx recused herself from the case because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives.

Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of “Empire” this season after he was charged with staging the hate crime.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Paul Simao)

Special prosecutor to examine Jussie Smollett case in Chicago

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – A Chicago judge on Friday ordered a special prosecutor to examine the handling of actor Jussie Smollett’s discredited claim that he was the victim of a hate crime, setting up the possibility he could be criminally charged a second time, a police spokesman said.

Smollett, who is black and gay and at the time had a role on the television show “Empire,” ignited a firestorm on social media after he told police on Jan. 29 that he was attacked on a street outside his Chicago home.

He said two apparent supporters of President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs.

Police later charged Smollett with filing a false police report and accused him of paying $3,500 to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy. Prosecutors dropped the charges in March, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

Trump, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor at the time; and the city’s police superintendent criticized the decision by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to drop charges.

Former Illinois appellate court judge Sheila O’Brien has since submitted a petition to Cook County Judge Michael Toomin requesting a special prosecutor to examine Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case, according to local media.

Toomin issued an order on Friday appointing the special prosecutor, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed by phone.

The special prosecutor will look into the “whole investigation” and as a result “Mr. Smollett could face charges,” Guglielmi said by phone.

“We stand firmly behind the work of detectives in investigating the fabricated incident reported by Jussie Smollett #ChicagoPolice will fully cooperate with the court-appointed special prosecutor,” Guglielmi wrote on Twitter.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for Smollett, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Foxx recused herself from the case before charges were filed against Smollett because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives, according to her spokesman.

A spokeswoman for Foxx’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

The initial reports of two Trump supporters attacking a gay, black celebrity drew widespread sympathy for Smollett, particularly from Democrats. That faded quickly after the actor’s arrest.

Smollett turned 37 years old on Friday.

“Empire” creator Lee Daniels confirmed earlier this month that Smollett would not be returning to the show.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Trump calls Smollett case ’embarrassment,’ announces review

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the Department of Justice will “review” the case of actor Jussie Smollett, who was charged with staging a fake hate crime in Chicago before prosecutors abruptly dropped the case this week.

In an early morning tweet announcing the review, Trump said the case had embarrassed the nation.

Smollett, who is black and gay, said two men attacked him at night in January, making homophobic and racist remarks and putting a noose around his neck while shouting support for Trump.

Investigators later charged Smollett with paying the two men to pretend to attack him in order to garner public sympathy for himself. Prosecutors dropped the charges on Tuesday, saying they stood by the accusation but that an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

The county prosecutors’ decision stunned the city’s police chief, prompted the police union to demand a federal investigation and enraged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, who called it a “whitewash” that made a fool of the city.

Trump, a Republican, echoed those remarks early on Thursday.

“FBI & DOJ to review the outrageous Jussie Smollett case in Chicago,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. “It is an embarrassment to our Nation!”

Smollett, 36, says he is innocent and did not stage the attack. His spokeswoman and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

The FBI has already had some involvement in the case, with agents investigating a threatening letter Smollett said he received prior to the attack, according to the Chicago Police Department.

The initial reports of two Trump supporters attacking a gay, black celebrity drew widespread sympathy for Smollett, particularly from Democrats. That faded quickly after the actor’s arrest, and the case was seized on by some as an example of what Trump likes to deride as “fake news.”

Smollett is best known for playing a gay musician on the Fox drama “Empire.” His lawyers said he hopes to move on with his acting career, but it remains unclear whether he will return to “Empire” after being written out of the last two episodes of the most recent season.

Chicago’s chief prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, has defended her office’s decision as proportionate to what she described as relatively minor charges, saying that even if Smollett had been convicted he would likely not have faced prison time.

Foxx recused herself from the case after acknowledging she had discussed it with a relative of Smollett.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Chicago mayor demands answers after Smollett hoax charges dropped

FILE PHOTO: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks during an interview at City Hall in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/File Photo

(Reuters) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Wednesday he wanted to “find out what happened” to cause prosecutors to abruptly drop charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who was accused of staging a hoax hate crime to boost his career.

The saga began in January when the actor, who is black and gay, said two men had attacked him on a Chicago street, putting a noose around his neck and shouting racist and homophobic slurs.

Prosecutors on Feb. 21 accused him of paying two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, $3,500 to carry out an attack they called a hoax to advance his career but abruptly dropped the charges on Tuesday.

“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Emanuel said in an ABC News interview. “Let’s find out what happened.”

Emanuel said Smollett had “abused” the city of Chicago, a day after the actor walked out of court saying he had been vindicated in insisting he had not staged a racist assault against him in January.

Smollett, who plays a gay musician on Fox’s hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” had been charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he gave false accounts of an attack on him to police investigators.

On Tuesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said it stood by its accusation against Smollett but was dropping all the charges, saying the actor’s prior community service and his agreeing to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

“The state’s attorney’s office is saying he’s not exonerated, he actually did commit this hoax,” Emanuel said in the ABC interview. “He’s saying he’s innocent and his words are true. They better get their stories straight, because this is making fools of all us.”

Chicago’s chief prosecutor, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, defended her office’s decision in an interview with WBEZ on Wednesday as proportionate to the charges.

Foxx had recused herself from the case prior to Smollett’s being charged because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives, according to her spokesman.

“There’s some people who were never gonna be satisfied unless Mr. Smollett spent many nights in prison, and then there were others who believed that the charging of 16 counts of disorderly conduct was excessive,” she said in the interview. She said the charges Smollett faced were unlikely to have led to a prison sentence if he had been convicted.

“What I can tell you is that most people who come through the criminal justice system don’t give up $10,000 of their hard-earned money, or engage in volunteer services connected with an alleged offense, without viewing that as a way of being held accountable,” she said.

Smollett initially earned widespread sympathy from celebrities and some Democratic presidential candidates over his account of the alleged assault.

The Chicago Police Department released what it said were all its records from the case on Wednesday, totaling 61 pages, with some names and other personal details redacted.

The records conformed with the information included in court filings, including summaries of interviews with the Osundairo brothers who said Smollett gave them a $3,500 check and $100 in cash to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps used in the attack.

On Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson also criticized the prosecutor’s decision, saying it did not serve justice.

Smollett had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and told reporters on Tuesday he had been “truthful and consistent” in maintaining his innocence.

His lawyers said he hopes to move on with his acting career, but it remains unclear whether he will return to “Empire” after being written out of the last two episodes of the most recent season.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang)

Chicago mayor lashes out after prosecutors drop Jussie Smollett charges

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

By Brendan O’Brien and Gina Cherelus

CHICAGO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel angrily lashed out on Tuesday after prosecutors dropped charges that had accused “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett of staging a phony hate crime that hit hot-button issues of race, sexuality and America’s political divide.

Smollett, who is black and gay, had earlier described the move as a complete vindication, and said he had told the truth when he said two masked men threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs in January.

Emanuel criticized the move by Cook County prosecutors, saying he stood by the police investigation.

“This is a whitewash of justice,” Emanuel told a news conference. “From top to bottom, this is not on the level.”

Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for a response.

That came hours after Smollett stood by his earlier accusations, which drew worldwide attention.

“I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” Smollett told reporters earlier on Tuesday outside a Chicago courthouse, where he posed for photos with supporters after a brief court hearing during which prosecutors abandoned the case.

Prosecutors had charged Smollett on Feb. 21 with filing a false report, accusing the actor of paying two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in an effort to use the notoriety to advance his career.

The brothers, who were arrested after getting captured on surveillance footage near the site of the alleged assault, confessed to their role in Smollett’s plot and were released without charges, authorities said in February. One of them had worked with Smollett on “Empire,” Fox’s hip-hop drama, according to police.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)