Jussie Smollett is facing new charges of lying to police about a racist, anti-gay attack he allegedly staged on himself in Chicago.
The actor had claimed he was walking home in January 2019 when masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic remarks, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.
He had also claimed one of the assailants told him he was in “MAGA country” – a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”.
Smollett was initially charged with disorderly conduct in February 2019 for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators – but the charges were dropped the following month with little explanation.
Police claimed he had paid two black friends to help him stage the assault because he was unhappy with his pay for his role as gay character Jamal Lyon in Fox show Empire, and he wanted to promote his career.
Dan Webb, special prosecutor, was appointed to look into why the charges were dropped a few months later.
He said prosecuting Smollett was “in the interest of justice” for a number of reasons – including the extensive details of Smollett’s false account as well as the police resources that the investigation required.
The new charges could reignite many of the tensions that surrounded the Smollett case a year ago.
While Democrats had initially described the alleged attack as a shocking incident of Trump-era racism and hate, Republicans depicted it as another example of liberals rushing to judgement.
Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian, has questioned the decision to file new charges – and challenged the integrity of the latest investigation.
The actor, who has not had any notable roles in films or TV shows since he left Empire, is set to appear in court on 24 February.
It isn’t clear what type of sentence he could face if convicted.
Police have sued Smollett to seek compensation for $130,000 (£100,000) of overtime paid to officers who were involved in investigating his allegations.
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