Just when it looked as though former Empire star Jussie Smollett may have dodged the criminal charges that were filed last year and later dropped in the controversial case in which he allegedly faked an assault, he’s back in court again. This time, a Chicago grand jury indicted Smollett on six new charges as of Tuesday, which, according to court documents, allege that the actor “planned and participated” in staging a hate crime against himself.
Jussie Smollett entered a plea of not guilty in criminal court Monday nearly a year to the day that he appeared in the same court on similar charges related to allegations of a staged hate crime attack.
Earlier this month, a grand jury returned a six-count indictment accusing the 37-year-old former “Empire” actor of lying to Chicago police.
Smollett, dressed in all black and wearing sunglasses, arrived at court with an entourage and walked past dozens of reporters gathered in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building on the city’s southwest side. He was accompanied by family members who had flown in from California, Smollett’s lawyer Tina Glandian told reporters.
Smollett first appeared before Presiding Judge LeRoy K. Martin Jr. Smollett and his family quietly occupied a row in the courtroom gallery, waiting for his name to be called. At one point, a woman leaving the courtroom spotted Smollett, stopped and pointed, and yelled, “Hey, you were good in Empire!” Smollett smiled.
Martin assigned Smollett’s case to Associate Judge James B. Linn, and dozens of people rushed upstairs to Linn’s seventh-floor courtroom. Two other judges that Martin called were out sick.
Upstairs, Glandian entered Smollett’s not guilty plea and told Linn that she has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to put a stay on the case. She told Linn that she has filed a motion to dismiss the charges as “double jeopardy.”
“Previously he did forfeit his bond in the amount of $10,000. That, in essence, was a punishment stemming from the criminal proceedings and, therefore, trying to punish him again a second time around is not permitted under the double jeopardy clause. You don’t just get a do-over,” Glandian told reporters after the hearing.
Linn said Smollett wasn’t a flight risk and set a $20,000 personal recognizance bond, meaning that Smollett does not have to pay the bond so long as he shows up to scheduled court appearances. Smollett was not taken into custody.
Lawyers set a court date for March 18.
“He’s obviously frustrated to be dragged through this process again,” Glandian said. “It’s really hard to believe that we’re all here, one year later.”
Glandian said that Smollett would not be entering any plea other than not guilty. “If that requires us to go to trial, we will,” she said.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the brothers who claim Smollett hired them to stage the attack, were present in court Monday, raising some questions about why they were present. Should Smollett’s case go to trial, the brothers would be key witnesses.
Gloria Schmidt Rodriguez, who represents the brothers, said that they were present to support the criminal justice process.
“They will be here ’til the very end of this process. They are committed to the public healing. They are committed to the public knowing the truth,” she said. “They want the city of Chicago to be made whole.”
Smollett faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct, charging the actor with making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers “related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime,” special prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement.
Last March, Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of filing a false police report, but prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dropped the charges three weeks later, angering police and City Hall officials and leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate.
The special prosecutor said the investigation into why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped the charges is ongoing.
Glandian released a statement saying the new charges call into question the fairness of the investigation.
“This indictment raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges against Mr. Smollett, not the least of which is the use of the same CPD detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack on Mr. Smollett to conduct the current investigation, despite Mr. Smollett’s pending civil claims against the City of Chicago and CPD officers for malicious prosecution,” she said.
Foxx, meanwhile, is weeks away from an election. Her campaign questioned the timing of the special prosecutor’s indictment.
“What’s questionable here is the James Comey-like timing of that charging decision, just 35 days before an election, which can only be interpreted as the further politicization of the justice system, something voters in the era of Donald Trump should consider offensive,” the Foxx campaign said in a statement.
It all began in January of 2019 when Smollett told police that attackers yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him, threw liquid on him and draped a noose around his neck. Smollett alleged that the attackers screamed “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
But after several weeks of investigation, Chicago police claimed he made the whole thing up, hiring the Osundairo brothers to pretend-attack him in order to boost his profile and paycheck on the Fox show “Empire.”
The city of Chicago went to state court in April to sue Smollett to recoup the cost in police overtime – set at $130,000 – in investigating his original claims. The lawsuit was later moved to federal court after Smollett’s attorneys argued that is the proper venue because Smollett, who lived in Chicago while filming “Empire,” is actually a California resident.
Smollett’s lawyers sought to have the lawsuit thrown out on multiple grounds, including that Smollett did not direct Chicago police to spend weeks investigating his claim and could not have known how much time and money would be spent.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, however, said “it isn’t unreasonable to think” the Chicago police would make a strong effort to investigate a purported racist and homophobic attack, especially given Smollett’s celebrity and the “volatile climate” of the city.
In June, Chicago police released video of Smollett with the rope around his neck and of supplies being purchased for the allegedly staged attack. Other files released include surveillance footage collected by police and footage of the brothers, who say they were paid to orchestrate the attack.
Smollett has insisted he is innocent and was exonerated.
“Empire” is in its sixth and final season, and Smollett lost his role on the show shortly after the scandal hit headlines.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN DEAD AT 43 FROM COLON CANCER
Chadwick Boseman, the iconic “Black Panther” star, has died at age 43 after a 4-year battle with colon cancer.
His family released a statement, saying “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.”
They continue that “it was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
“He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side”
Chadwick, who most famously brought the first black Marvel superhero to life in “Black Panther” along with a string of ‘Avengers’ movies was no stranger to giving life to iconic roles. He portrayed Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”
Recently, Chadwick had sparked concern amongst his fans, as he appeared very thin in videos on social media. This worry nearly overshadowed the impactful words he wanted to share with the world about Jackie Robinson and the pandemic.
Born in South Carolina, he always had an affinity for theater, and wrote his first play in high school. He attended the famous predominantly black college, Howard University, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine arts.
He started his career in writing and directing, but clearly, he was meant to be on the other side of the camera. He took the world by storm in 2013 in the role of Jackie Robinson in “42.” On playing that role, Chadwick said, “The story is relevant because we still stand on his shoulders. He started something – I would even say maybe he didn’t even start it, it started before him. But he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him.” Clearly, he forwarded the narrative of that, as he moved on to play one of the most influential roles of a generation in the portrayal of T’Challa, aka Black Panther.
The impact he had on Hollywood, while too short, was phenomenal. He hosted ‘SNL’ in a very memorable episode, and was slated to start in ‘Black Panther 2’ which was meant to be released in 2022
Chadwick was 43. RIP
Jacob Blake Hospital Handcuffs Finally Removed
Jacob is no longer handcuffed to his hospital bed, his felony warrants have been vacated and police stopped guarding him at the hospital … the family’s lawyer stated.
Jacob Blake’s father says his son is handcuffed to his hospital bed despite being paralyzed from the waist down after suffering 7 gunshot wounds from a cop.
Blake’s dad, also named Jacob, says when he visited his son in the hospital Wednesday he found him cuffed to his bed … and immediately questioned why it was necessary.
The elder Blake says he hated seeing his son like that and pointed out … “He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed?”
Blake claims he also hasn’t gotten an answer as to what Jacob was arrested for that would warrant him being handcuffed in the first place.
Jacob’s parents got emotional Tuesday as they spoke outside the Kenosha County Courthouse about their son being shot and his condition, and the family’s lawyer revealed it would be a miracle if he ever walks again.
As we’ve reported … the 29-year-old father was shot 7 times at point-blank range by Kenosha, WI police officer Rusten Sheskey.
Cops say they were initially called to the scene for a domestic disturbance, and the shooting’s being investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.
So far, no word from law enforcement about Jacob’s arrest or charges.
Son of Sweetie Pie’s owner charged in murder-for-hire plot that killed owner’s grandson
James Timothy Norman of Sweetie Pie‘s fame is facing federal charges alleging he conspired with an exotic dancer in the murder of his eighteen-year-old nephew Andre Montgomery.
The 41-year-old son of the legendary restaurant owner Robbie Montgomery was arrested this morning at his home in Jackson, Mississippi, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney.
Norman, who starred with his family in the show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, had feuded with his mother over money in recent years after she sued him for opening restaurants under the Sweetie Pie’s brand without her permission, according to court records.
It was a messy, public spat, but federal authorities say Norman executed a far more sinister conspiracy to have his teenage nephew killed in 2016. According to the criminal complaint unsealed today, Norman had taken out $450,000 in life insurance policies on Andre Montgomery in 2014, and he was the sole beneficiary.
In 2016, Norman was living in Los Angeles. Phone records obtained by investigators showed that leading up to Andre Montgomery’s murder, Norman and a Memphis-based dancer named Teria Ellis headed to St. Louis and communicated over burner phones. Ellis also started contacting Montgomery, sending him her Instagram account handle, Alexusdagreat, and texting that she would be visiting St. Louis.
“I’m on my way in town,” she wrote him in an email on March 10, 2016, according to court records.
Three days later, Norman flew into St. Louis and booked a room at the Chase Park Plaza hotel. The next day, March 14, Ellis contacted Montgomery to figure out where he was, according to the complaint. Cell phone records showed that he texted her the address of a house: 3964 Natural Bridge Ave. in the city. Ellis then called Norman.
That night, at 8:02 p.m., Montgomery was shot to death at the house on Natural Bridge. And investigators believe Ellis was there. Location data from her burner phone put her at the scene, and in one of Montgomery’s final phone calls, he spoke to his girlfriend, who later told investigators she could hear a woman’s voice in the background.
One minute after the eighteen-year-old was shot, Ellis made another call — to Norman.
“Despite being at the scene of Montgomery’s murder at 8:02pm, ELLIS’s first phone call was not to the police, but rather to [NORMAN] at 8:03 p.m., at which time her phone location data showed she was driving in a direction consistent with her returning home in Memphis, Tennessee,” the criminal complaint says.
Phone records would then show the phone moving south along Interstate 55. Norman’s phone showed him flying back to Los Angeles, arriving early the morning after the killing. That same day, March 15, 2016, both the burner phones went dark, authorities say.
Back in Memphis, Ellis began depositing money — $3,020 in a checking account that previously had a negative balance and another $4,340 in a savings account opened the same day. On March 17, 2016, she deposited another $1,900.
On March 22, 2016, she and her mother and daughter flew to Los Angeles. There’s not much information in the court records about what they did there, but authorities say location data for her mom’s phone showed that on at least one occasion they were with Norman.
At the end of April 2016, Norman wired Ellis $700.
Norman waited a week to try to collect on his murdered nephew’s life insurance police, authorities say. On March 21, 2016, he called the bank, but he never provided all the documentation required and still hasn’t gotten the money, according to court records.
He’s now being held without bond at a jail in Madison County, Mississippi. He and Ellis have been charged with conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder-for-hire, resulting in death.
The case is being investigated by St. Louis police and the FBI.