It’s official: Empire star Jussie Smollett now faces a felony charge from a Chicago grand jury for filing a false police report in connection with his alleged attack last month.
Earlier Wednesday, Chicago police announced that the actor was now officially classified a suspect in a criminal investigation for filing a false police report, which is a Class 4 felony. A Cook County grand jury has since charged him, and Smollett now faces a maximum of three years in prison if found guilty. Chicago authorities are currently contacting Smollett’s legal team to “negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest”; the actor is expected in court on Thursday.
Smollett’s attorneys responded with a statement: “Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Smollett was the alleged victim of an attack in Chicago last month, in which two men supposedly approached the actor/singer and began hurling racist and homophobic slurs at him. According to the original account, the two men beat Smollett, poured a chemical substance (believed to be bleach) on him and tied a noose around his neck before fleeing the scene. Smollett also told police that the assailants “yelled pro-‘Make America Great Again’ [MAGA] comments” during the attack.
Later developments cast doubt on Smollett’s account, including the questioning of two suspects — a pair of Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked as a personal trainer on a music video of Smollett’s — who were later released without being charged. Smollett’s lawyers have insisted that the actor played no role in his attack, and 20th Century Fox, the producers of Empire, have stood behind him, denying reports that his role on the show is being reduced in light of the controversy: “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set, and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”