Jussie Smollett's legal woes just got compounded.
On Feb. 11, the former "Empire" star was indicted by a special prosecutor on six counts of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting an assault in 2019 — a move that comes nearly a year after an initial set of charges against Jussie was controversially dropped.
But as he faces jail time again in the criminal court system, he's still involved in a civil case with the City of Chicago concerning the same incident.
To recap: In late January 2019, the actor claimed he was violently attacked by two assailants on a Chicago street while walking home. In the weeks that followed, Jussie was arrested on multiple felony charges for allegedly staging the racist and homophobic "attack." Then in March 2019, those initial charges were suddenly dropped and the case was sealed.
A few months later, Jussie was sued by the City of Chicago in a move to recoup its investigation costs, and in November 2019, Jussie — who's always maintained his innocence — countersued the city, claiming that he was the victim of a malicious prosecution that caused him humiliation and extreme distress.
TMZ is now reporting that Jussie will have to fight both cases because, as the webloid puts it, "the City of Chicago is not backing down from its lawsuit to recover the cost of investigating what authorities say was a fake 'attack.'" Sources have told TMZ that even though the city could drop its case and still likely get what it wants — because if Jussie is convicted in criminal court on the new February 2020 charges, "the judge would almost certainly order restitution on behalf of the city," TMZ explains — that won't happen.
TMZ believes that Jussie "will almost certainly" have to choose to plead the 5th in the civil case — to avoid self-incrimination — considering that he's now facing a new criminal case. The rub is that, according to TMZ, in the state of Illinois, "if a defendant takes the 5th in a civil case, the judge can tell the jury it can conclude that person is hiding something."
And if Jussie doesn't testify in his civil lawsuit — in which he's also named brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo as defendants (they're the two men Jussie says attacked him; they say he masterminded the alleged setup) — it will be hard to prove they went after him on their own if Jussie doesn't testify.
The City of Chicago has seemingly confirmed that it's not backing down from its civil case, as a spokesperson told TMZ, "The City stands by our original complaint seeking to recover costs for Mr. Smollett's false statements." Though officials won't come out and say it directly, a source with direct knowledge of the case told TMZ that the civil suit will not be going away.
Jussie is due back in criminal court on Feb. 24 to face the newly filed charges. The timeline in the civil case is at the moment unclear. On March 3, "Empire" — the show from which Jussie was let go following his 2019 attack scandal — will begin to air its final run of episodes.