The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved a felony disorderly conduct charge after an Illinois grand jury heard evidence that the 36-year-old had staged the assault. The offense could bring one to three years in prison.
“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,” Smollett’s legal team, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, said in a statement to Us in response to the news. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
The charge comes shortly after Chicago police officially named the Empire star as a suspect.
“We can confirm prosecutors and investigators in Chicago spoke with attorneys of Jussie Smollett at approximately 10 a.m. this morning,” Norma Pelayo of the Chicago Police Department told Us in a statement earlier on Wednesday. “Smollett is now classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by Chicago police for filing a false report.”
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also tweeted on Wednesday: “Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury.”
Smollett sought medical treatment on January 29 after he claimed he was attacked in Chicago in the early morning hours by two men who screamed “racial and homophobic slurs” at him and allegedly tied a noose around his neck. After two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were arrested and released earlier this month, Guglielmi confirmed that the “case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” He added that law enforcement officials were requesting a follow-up interview with Smollett at the time.
Following the arrest and release of the Osundairo brothers, CNN reported that authorities believed Smollett paid the men to orchestrate the attack against him.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying,” the actor’s attorney said in a statement to ABC 7 Chicago at the time.
Amid the ongoing investigation, Smollett remains at work on the hit Fox drama series. “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,” the network told Us on Wednesday.
Though many of Smollett’s castmates have been outspoken in their support for him, an insider told Us that “some of Jussie’s Empire cast members are upset with him,” adding, “This has put them in an awkward position and now some of the cast is very skeptical.”
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