Actor Jussie Smollett faces new charges accused of lying to police

Empire actor Jussie Smollett Credit: Matt Marton/AP

A grand jury has returned a six-count indictment accusing actor Jussie Smollett of lying to Chicago police, a special prosecutor has announced.

The charges stem from Smollett’s assertion that he was the target of a racist and homophobic attack in January 2019.

The actor claimed two masked men looped a rope around his neck before running away as he was out getting food at a Subway restaurant early on January 29.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb issued a statement announcing the most recent indictment.

Protesters from both sides clashed over the decision to drop charges against Smollett in March 2019. Credit: AP

Smollett, who is black and gay, was originally charged in February 2019 with disorderly conduct for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators.

The charges were dropped in March 2019 with little explanation, angering police officials and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel who described the decision as "a whitewash of justice".

Chicago's police superintendent Eddie Johnson also contested the decision, claiming Smollett "committed this hoax, period".

The force said Smollett recruited the two men to stage the attack because he was upset with his pay on the Fox show.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, the prosecutor whose office dismissed the charges, defended the decision.

Ms Foxx said the Empire actor was treated no differently than thousands of other defendants whose charges were similarly dropped since she took office.

Chicago police said Smollett recruited the two men to stage the attack because he was upset with his pay on the Fox show. Credit: AP

Cook County Judge Michael Toomin in August appointed Mr Webb, a former US attorney, as a special prosecutor to look into why the charges were dropped.

Smollett told police he was walking home early on January 29 last year when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.

He said his assailants, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in "Maga country" - a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again".

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County Court in March 2019 after his charges were dropped. Credit: AP

Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on Empire and wanted to drum up publicity for his career.

Smollett is still adamant that the attack was real and was not a publicity hoax.