Jussie Smollett started making headlines back in early 2019, but unfortunately not because of anything good happening with Empire on Fox. The actor, known for playing Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama, reported an attack on the streets of Chicago in January 2019 that was subsequently investigated as a hate crime. Then rumors began to circulate that Smollett had staged the attack, and he was ultimately arrested for filing a false police report. The case was dismissed in March 2019, but now the case is back and more dramatic than ever.
As of February 11, 2020, Jussie Smollett has been indicted on six counts for allegedly making four separate false reports to Chicago Police. The indictments come after an investigation by special prosecutor Dan Webb, who was appointed to conduct an independent investigation in August 2019 to determine if Smollett should be further prosecuted despite the March dismissal and if any involved in Smollett's case were guilty of wrongdoing.
In a statement explaining the reasons for the indictments, the office of special prosecutor Dan Webb said this (via NBC's 5 Chicago):
[I]n connection with whether to further prosecute Jussie Smollett, 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. Therefore, Mr. Webb has determined that reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Mr. Smollett.
The statement from the special prosecutor's office elaborates on the factors that went into the renewed investigation into Jussie Smollett's claim from January 2019, including "the extensive nature" of Smollett's allegedly false police reports and "the resources expended by the Chicago Police Department to investigate these false reports." The office of the special prosecutor also stated that it determined there was insufficient "documentary evidence" for the original March 2019 dismissal.
What does this mean for Jussie Smollett? The actor hasn't personally commented on the indictments at the time of writing, but his lawyer addressed the charges. Attorney Tina Glandian released a statement (via People) that fired back at the special prosecutor's new case against Smollett.
Tina Glandian claimed that the indictments are "about politics" rather than justice due to the upcoming Cook County State's Attorney election, and noted that one of the grand jury witnesses is a detective currently being sued by Smollett for "his role in the initial prosecution."
The response from Jussie Smollett's lawyer addressed the implications of the indictments:
This indictment raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges against Mr. Smollett, not the least of which is the use of the same CPD detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack on Mr. Smollett to conduct the current investigation, despite Mr. Smollett’s pending civil claims against the City of Chicago and CPD officers for malicious prosecution.
The defense of Jussie Smollett claims that there isn't "any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal" of the original charges against him, so it looks like this case may not be going away any time soon. In fact, it could get even more dramatic!
At the very least, it may rule out Smollett making that rumored appearance on Empire before the final credits roll! After he was cut out of the final episodes of Season 5 due to the scandal, I'm not sure I can imagine Empire and Fox bringing Jamal back even to say goodbye, short of an unlikely recast.
Empire returns for its final run of episodes (with or without a surprise appearance from Jussie Smollett) on Tuesday, March 3 on Fox at 9 p.m. ET. You can see Smollett back in his Empire days with the first five seasons streaming on Hulu, and our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule can point you toward some additional viewing options.