A judge in Illinois has ordered a special prosecutor to look into how unspecial prosecutors handled the Jussie Smollett case, in which the Empire star reported an assault that was initially investigated as a possible hate crime, was arrested for allegedly paying two men to help him stage the crime, and then had all charges dropped. Now, a judge has written in his ruling that Smollett may be charged again.
The decision comes weeks after Chicago police released hundreds of pages detailing the investigation, which saw Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct (one for each lie he allegedly told police).
The judge’s appointment of the special prosecutor is a result of dissatisfaction allegations of conflicts of interest that some feel may have worked in Smollett’s favor, according to NPR:
“Law enforcement officials have said they’re frustrated that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office ended the case by abruptly announcing Smollett would not face any charges. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, called it a “‘whitewash of justice.’”
Foxx recused herself from the case before Smollett was charged with anything due to “conversations” she reportedly had with a member of Smollett’s family.
Judge Michael Toomin seemed to agree with law enforcement’s frustrations, writing the case was full of “unprecedented irregularities,” so much so that, depending on the special prosecutor’s findings, it’s possible Smollett may face new charges:
“If reasonable grounds exist to further prosecute Smollett, in the interest of justice the special prosecutor may take such action as may be appropriate to effectuate that result.”
Empire is set to end after its upcoming season, though this Smollett drama may outlast us all.