A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a suit by former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett alleging he was the victim of a malicious prosecution over his allegedly staged hate crime attack in January 2019.
U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Kendall ruled that Smollett’s claim against the city of Chicago and several police officers cannot go forward now that he’s been re-indicted by a special Cook County grand jury on charges stemming from the same incident.
In her 15-page opinion, Kendall wrote that if the new criminal case — brought by special prosecutor Dan Webb in February — were to end in Smollett’s favor, he would be free to refile his suit.
But the judge indicated that such a claim would likely fail since police had plenty of evidence showing Smollett had staged the attack, including sworn statements from the phony attackers, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo.
“While Smollett alleges the statements were unreliable and self-serving, he ignores that there was additional evidence to corroborate the Osundairo Brothers’ statements, including suspicious texts between the parties and the deposit of a large check to Abel shortly before the attack,” the judge wrote.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told police he was attacked on a frigid night in downtown Chicago by two men as he was walking home after getting a sandwich at a Subway restaurant. The men shouted slurs, poured bleach or a similar substance on him and hung a noose around his neck, he told officers.
But the actor eventually turned from victim to suspect, and in a 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.
The initial criminal charges were abruptly dismissed by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office weeks later, a move that sparked national controversy and prompted the appointment of Webb to look into how the case was handled.
Webb’s special grand jury indicted Smollett in February on six counts of disorderly conduct alleging he lied to police about being the victim of the attack. Smollett has pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, the city has filed a lawsuit against Smollett seeking to recoup about $130,000 in police overtime expenses incurred during the investigation. That suit is also pending before Kendall in U.S. District Court.
By: Jason Meisner