Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett appeared in a Chicago, Illinois, courtroom Monday morning, where he pleaded not guilty to six new charges of disorderly conduct and lying to police officers, leveled by a special prosecutor after months of investigation.
Smollett looked “somber” as he appeared in front of Judge James B. Linn in Cook County Monday morning, according to WGN News, and wore sunglasses on his way into and out of the courtroom.
Smollett appeared in a similar courtroom almost exaclty one year ago, when he pleaded not guilty to sixteen charges of obstructing justice, stemming from a “racist” and “homophobic” incident Smollett said took place in the early hours of a January morning, outside of his apartment building in Chicago’s tony Streeterville neighborhood. Smollett claimed that two masked assailants wearing “Make America Great Again” hats accosted him outside of his building, threw him to the ground, tossed a noose over his neck, doused him in a liquid thought to be bleach, and left him for dead.
Although Smollett did not give many specific details to officers during his first sit-down interview the night of the attack, he later told police that the attackers were white, and that they’d yelled, “welcome to MAGA country!” as they fled from the scene.
After two weeks investigating, Chicago police officers allegedly discovered that Smollett had planned the attack himself, collaborating with two Nigerian-American brothers whom he’d met on the set of “Empire.” The two brothers purchased the rope and hat, per police records, and, reportedly, orchestrated the series of events with Smollett’s help.
Smollett was charged, initially, with a single count of lying to police. A number of other counts were added later, after police completed their investigation. Although the case against Smollett looked rough, he was ultimately able to ink a “plea deal” with Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, which saw the charges dropped. In return, Smollett forefeited $10,000 of his bond and did 16 hours of community service.
Smollett denies all of the allegations and maintains that he was the victim of a hate crime.
Just two weeks ago, a special prosecutor, looking into how Foxx’s office handled the Smollett case, resurrected six of the charges, much to Foxx’s chagrin. The Cook County States Attorney is facing an uphill re-election bid and is already under fire for her permissive bail policies, particularly with gun offenders.
Foxx’s office is not involved in this new prosecution.
Smollett’s attorney’s tried, Monday, to stall the case pending an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court claiming that Smollett cannot be put into “double jeopardy” for the same crime, and that the appointment of a special prosecutor was “flawed,” according to the Chicago Sun Times.
“The circumstances surrounding the initial case in 2019 did not reach the legal level warranting the appointment of a special prosecutor,” the complaint alleges. “Under the terms of the law, in order to appoint a special prosecutor, the office (of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx) had to file a former recusal with the court . . . and that didn’t occur here.”
Judge Linn denied their motion and “set a $20,000 personal recognizance bond,” which allows Smollett to walk free without putting money down. He will return to court on March 18. He added that Smollett does not qualify for protection against “double jeopardy” because he was not prosecuted the first time.
“He’s obviously frustrated to be dragged through this process again,” Smollett’s lawyers told media gathered outside the courthouse Monday. “He’s strong, he’s resilient, he’ll get through this, but he’s frustrated.”