Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is vowing to “aggressively” hold embattled former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett “accountable” for the “total hoax” police say he orchestrated last year.
“He needs to face the charges,” said Lightfoot on Sunday, as reported CBS Chicago. “He committed a crime, and he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we are going to continue to aggressively make him accountable for the wasted police resources that went into investigating what turned out to be a total hoax.”
Lightfoot has maintained, like her predecessor former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, that Smollett is guilty of having orchestrated a hoax hate crime last January, as concluded by the Chicago Police Department after a high-profile investigation that followed initial sympathetic coverage of Smollett’s claims by mainstream media outlets.
Smollett was slapped with 16 charges related to the alleged hate crime hoax, but was infamously let off the hook just over a month later — without so much as an admission of guilt or a fine — by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Amid outrage over Foxx’s widely criticized decision to abruptly drop all of the charges, a special prosecutor has been appointed and a special grand jury has since indicted Smollett on six counts of disorderly conduct related to allegedly filing bogus police reports on the “hate crime.”
In a Cook County courtroom on Monday morning, the day after Mayor Lightfoot promised “accountability,” Smollett pleaded not guilty to all six counts in front of Judge James B. Linn.
Smollett’s lawyers attempted to get the case tossed out, filing a motion claiming the new charges amounted to “double jeopardy,” but, as The Daily Wire reported, Linn rejected the argument on Monday.
“The circumstances surrounding the initial case in 2019 did not reach the legal level warranting the appointment of a special prosecutor,” the attorneys’ motion stated. “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 the motion, maintaining that case does not qualify for “double jeopardy” protection since Foxx refused to prosecute him the first time. Linn released Smollett on a $20,000 “personal recognizance bond,” allowing him to walk free without having to put money down, but the actor is scheduled to return to the court on March 18.
In January 2019, Smollett claimed that two white Trump supporters attacked him, dousing him with an unknown liquid, putting a rope around his neck, and yelling “Welcome to MAGA country!” as they fled the scene. But Chicago police concluded after a multi-week investigation that the actor had orchestrated the attack himself with the help of two Nigerian-American brothers, who detailed their role in the scheme to investigators.
He was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for the allegedly false claims, but Foxx abruptly dropped the charges just over a month later, sparking strong criticism, including from the Chicago Police Department and other state’s attorneys, who said Foxx’s actions were indefensible.