Despite the charges against Jussie Smollett being dropped in his infamous Chicago attack, the case isn’t over.
On Friday, a Cook County judge ordered a special counsel be appointed to investigate prosecutors’ handling of the case, which could lead to new charges against the Empire actor.
According to the Chicago Tribune — which covered the hearing — Judge Michael Toomin ruled that when State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself, she had no legal authority to appoint her top deputy to take over the case.
“There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it floundered through uncharted waters, and it ultimately lost its bearings,” Toomin said. “The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Toomin further ruled that if there are “reasonable grounds to believe that any other criminal offense was committed … special prosecutor may commence the prosecution of any crime as may be suspected,” Tribune reporter Megan Crepeau tweeted.
The special prosecutor may further prosecute Smollett, and if they have "reasonable grounds to believe that any other criminal offense was committed … special prosecutor may commence the prosecution of any crime as may be suspected," Toomin says
— Megan Crepeau (@crepeau) June 21, 2019
The judge’s decision comes after criticism of Foxx’s handling of the case following her office’s decision in March to drop all the charges against Smollett.
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The case began on Jan. 29, when the performer told Chicago police he was walking down a city street in the dark, when two masked men approached him and began yelling racial and homophobic slurs. The actor said the suspects beat him, wrapped a rope around his neck and said “this is MAGA country.”
Following a lengthy investigation, police alleged that Smollett orchestrated the attack in hopes of getting a salary bump on Empire, and said he hired two friends to carry it out.
Prosecutors charged the actor with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false
police report. Smollett maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty. Yet in a surprise move on March 26, the state’s attorney’s office dropped all charges.
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The city is now suing Smollett in civil court to recover more than $130,000 it claims to have spent on police overtime hours investigating the case.
Smollett’s character Jamal Lyon was written out of the final episodes on Season 5 of Empire amid his legal troubles.
Series co-creator Lee Daniels recently issued a statement saying Smollett will not be returning for the show’s sixth and final season.