Jussie Smollett may find himself in further legal jeopardy after Chicago Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed a special prosecutor to investigate why a 16-count indictment against the “Empire” star was abruptly dropped after he faced accusations of faking a hate-crime attack on himself.
As The Blast reports, Chicago Tribune reporter Megan Crepeau was in attendance at a Friday-morning hearing when the judge made the blockbuster ruling, declaring that when state’s attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case, she did not have the authority to appoint her replacement; the prosecutor she appointed, first assistant state’s attorney Joseph Magats, dropped all charges, with Smollett ultimately performing 16 hours of community service and agreeing to forfeit his $10,000 bail without admission of guilt.
It was subsequently discovered that two weeks before the charges were dropped, Foxx texted her staff that Smollett, whom she referred to as a “washed-up celeb who lied to cops,” was being treated too harshly.
The newly appointed special prosecutor may further prosecute Smollett, reports Variety, with Toomin ruling that if “reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Smollett, in the interest of justice the special prosecutor may take such action as may be appropriate to effectuate that result.”
In his ruling, Toomin also stated that the reason a special prosecutor needed to be appointed was to “restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Furthermore, reports The Blast, Toomin used a nautical metaphor to explain the reasoning behind his ruling.
“Here, the ship of the State ventured from its protected harbour without the guiding hand of the captain,” the judge wrote. “There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it foundered through unchartered waters. And it ultimately lost its bearings.”
Following the judge’s ruling, Foxx issued a statement opposing his decision.
“I am pleased that the court agreed there was no conflict of interest here,” reads Foxx’s statement. “Regarding recusal, I followed the advice and counsel of my then-Chief Ethics Officer. In any event, I respectfully disagree with the court’s conclusion that, in the absence of any conflict, the appointment of a special prosecutor is required. As always, I remain committed to transparency, justice, and the public safety of the communities we serve.”
In late January, Smollett told police he was attacked by two masked men who doused him with an unknown chemical and put a noose around his neck in what he described as a hate crime; subsequent evidence emerged indicating that Smollett had allegedly staged the attack.
Smollett has been let go from “Empire”, and will not be returning for the Fox drama’s final season.