CHICAGO - A judge has ordered Google to turn over a year's worth of Jussie Smollett's emails, private messages, photographs and location data to a special prosecutor who is looking into why prosecutors abruptly dismissed criminal charges against the actor.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reported that it had obtained two search warrants submitted by special prosecutor Dan Webb and signed off by Cook County Judge Michael Toomin last month.
Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office filed and quickly dropped 16 counts of disorderly conduct against Smollett for allegedly staging a January 2019 attack in downtown Chicago and lying about it to police. Toomin appointed Webb months later and the warrants offer the first public hints about what he has been investigating.
When the charges were filed, Chicago police alleged the black and openly gay Smollett - unhappy with his salary and hoping to promote his career - paid two brothers to stage what appeared to be a racist and homophobic attack, in which one of the men looped a rope fashioned as a noose around his neck.
In the warrants, Webb seeks information from the Google accounts of Smollett and his manager, including unsent draft emails and deleted messages. He also requests files from their Google Drive cloud storage services, Google Voice texts, and web browsing history.
Webb has not publicly discussed the investigation and Smollett has maintained his innocence. But the fact the warrants seek data between November 2018 and November 2019 suggests investigators could be trying to support the original police allegation that Smollett planned and helped stage a fake attack.
It remains unclear if Google has turned over the information. In approving the warrants, Toomin ordered Google not to disclose the order, saying that doing so “may jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation”. A Google spokesman told the Tribune that he could not comment on requests for records from law enforcement.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed the department is conducting 'follow-ups" of its initial investigation but he declined to comment further. An attorney who tried to block the appointment of the special prosecutor and another attorney representing Smollett in a federal civil case did not immediately return calls for comment.