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A year’s worth of Jussie Smollett’s emails, search history, and other online data could soon end up in the hands of a special prosecutor investigating whether the “Empire” actor faked his own hate crime — and wasted tens of thousands of dollars of the Chicago Police Department’s money in the process.
Last month, a federal judge ordered Google to hand over Smollett and his manager’s emails, Google Voice texts, search history, photos, geolocation data, and files in his Google Drive, according to court documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune.
The investigators, led by special prosecutor Dan Webb, filed two warrants for all of Smollett’s data between November 2018 and November 2019 — presumably looking for any incriminating comments that the actor might have made about the case. On Dec. 6, the judge signed off on their search, according to the Tribune.
Google was ordered not to comment on the warrants and has not said whether the company complied. Big tech companies are often asked to turn over people’s private data to law enforcement, and they usually comply, although some legal fights have dragged on.
In January 2019, Smollett, who’s black and gay, filed a police report that two men attacked him, put a noose over his neck, and shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. But when police began investigating, his story quickly began to unravel. Less than two months later, police slapped him with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct and accused him of staging the attack to boost his career.
Right-wing media also picked up the case as evidence that hate crimes are hoaxes. Almost no hate crimes are staged.
Just weeks later, state’s Attorney Kim Foxx dismissed Smollett’s case without much explanation. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were both furious — and the city of Chicago later sued Smollett to try to recoup $130,000 in police overtime costs.
Soon after, Judge Michael Toomin to appoint Webb as special prosecutor in August to investigate why Foxx had dropped the charges — and explore any additional charges against Smollett, who continues to maintain he did nothing wrong.
The cops in Chicago had found cell phone records and emails that indicated Smollett paid a pair of brothers $3,500. Prosecutors allege the money went toward helping him stage the attack, although Smollett says he was paying them for personal training.
Still, Smollett took the city dropping charges against him as vindication. He and his attorney have tried to paint the brothers who allegedly helped him stage the attack as homophobic liars, who spun up a narrative to avoid facing charges themselves.
This whole ordeal hasn’t turned out great for Smollett, who, in addition to getting sued by the city of Chicago, is also facing a defamation lawsuit from the pair of brothers. In turn, Smollett also sued the city of Chicago for what he’s calling “malicious prosecution.”
Cover image: File Photo by: zz/Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2018 5/14/18 Jussie Smollett at The 2018 Fox Network Upfront in New York City. (NYC)