FBI reportedly launches investigation into Jussie Smollett case
Back in January, Empire star Jussie Smollett made headlines after allegedly suffering a racially-motivated attack.
The 36-year-old actor told police he had been attacked by two "unknown males" dressed in black at around 2 am in downtown Chicago. He reported that they had called him "racial and homophobic slurs," hit him in the face, hung a noose around his neck, and poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him. He also claimed that one of the attackers said, "This is MAGA country."
In the days following the initial report, however, parts of the story began to unravel, and - in a strange twist - it was Smollett who found himself indicted on criminal charges.
Earlier this week, those charges were dropped. Now the FBI is investigating why.
Previously in the investigation, police had insisted that they had enough evidence against Smollett in order to get a conviction. From the FBI's point of view, this warrants enough suspicion to launch a separate investigation into what changed in order to convince law enforcement that they did not have a case.
First Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats, who was handling the case after State’s Attorney Kim Foxx stepped down, announced the dismissal of charges on Tuesday, but made his own opinions on the matter known.
"I do not believe he is innocent," he told a Chicago CBS affiliate.
"Based on all facts and circumstances of the case, and also keeping in mind resources and keeping in mind that the office’s number one priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence, I decided to offer this disposition in the case."
The Bureau had worked closely with Chicago police from the beginning of the alleged hoax investigation, meaning that he could still face federal charges such as obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or mail fraud, even though the other existing charges against him have been dropped.
The potential mail fraud charges pertain to an earlier incident in which Smollett allegedly received a letter which said "You will die black f*g" in cutout magazine characters. The letter also depicted a crude stick figure drawing of someone being hanged, and had "MAGA" written across the envelope in red pen.
It is believed by some that the actor wrote the letter himself, and then staged the later attack when it did not get enough attention.
For now, though, Smollett and his team are focusing on their recent victory.
In an official statement made on Tuesday, March 26, the Empire star's lawyers said:
"All charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of the complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgement."
If found guilty on federal charges, Smollett could be in far deeper trouble than he was previously, as mail fraud alone carries up to 20 years behind bars.