CHICAGO (Reuters) – The case of ex-“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who sparked a firestorm in Chicago by reporting a racist attack authorities have ruled a hoax, returns to court on Friday, when local media say a judge may tap a special prosecutor to review the case.
FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo
The actor, who is black and gay, stunned the city when he told police on Jan. 29 that two masked men threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressing support for U.S. President Donald Trump.
A month later, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx charged Smollett, best known for his role as a gay musician on the Fox Television hip-hop drama “Empire,” with filing a false police report and accused him of paying $3,500 to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy.
Smollett has denied staging the attack.
Foxx also recused herself from the case because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives.
In March, to the dismay of local politicians and police officials, Foxx’s office dropped the charges, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin scheduled a status hearing related to the case for Friday morning. Court records do not indicate the purpose of the hearing, but local newspapers reported the only outstanding item remaining in the case is for Toomin to name a special prosecutor.
In June, Toomin said he would appoint a special prosecutor to the case after receiving a petition from former Illinois appellate court Judge Sheila O’Brien.
Toomin said at the time the case’s “unprecedented irregularities” warranted the appointment “to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” the Tribune reported.
The special prosecutor could bring fresh charges against Smollett and charges against anyone else who is believed to have committed a crime during the incident and investigation, the Tribune reported, citing Toomin’s ruling in June.
The actor’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, could not be reached for comment.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of “Empire” this season after he was charged with staging the hate crime.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker
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