CHICAGO, IL – Actor Jussie Smollett maintained his innocence as he walked into a Chicago courtroom Wednesday to face renewed charges from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office relating to his alleged 2019 hate crime hoax, referring to the new legal proceedings as a “dog and pony show.”
Smollett has been charged again with six counts of felony misconduct for allegedly fabricating stories to authorities that he had been singled out and attacked by masked supporters of former President Donald Trump while walking home early in the morning of Jan. 29, 2019 because he was both Black and gay.
The actor maintains that the White assailants had beaten him, called him racist and homophobic slurs, tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him; as they fled, one of the attackers allegedly told Smollett that he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
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However, after an investigation, Chicago Police said that they had determined Smollett had actually orchestrated the incident himself as a publicity stunt to help further his career as an actor. Police officials revealed that Smollett had hired two men to stage the attack, with surveillance video further tying the two to the hoax. Investigators claim that Smollett’s alleged scam was to help leverage a pay raise for his role on Fox’s TV drama “Empire.”
Smollett was charged in February 2019 with a class four felony for filing a false police report and was eventually indicted on six counts of felony misconduct. The incident ended up costing Smollett his “Empire” job as producers quickly wrote his character out of the remaining two episodes of the fifth season and have not asked him back for season six.
But Chicago prosecutors sparked outrage in March 2019 by the surprise announcement that they would be dropping all charges against Smollett in exchange for only forfeiting his $10,000 bond and performing 16 hours of community service. In response, the mayor and police chief of Chicago both publicly condemned the dismissal and Smollett’s alleged hoax.
The charges against Smollett were renewed after a special Cook County grand jury returned a six-count indictment against him in February 2020, accusing the actor of lying to police. Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the charges.