Shortly after being considered a suspect by Chicago police for filing a false police report about an alleged attack on January 29, ‘Empire’ tv series star Jussie Smollett has been charged with federal disorderly conduct on Wednesday, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed.
The charge is likely a class 4 felony, which carries a potential sentence of one to three years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. According to the relevant section of the Illinois statute, such a charge occurs when a person makes a report of a crime to peace officer while knowing that the information isn’t true, doesn’t have the “reasonable grounds necessary” to believe that it will contribute to the public’s safety or calls 911 with a “false alarm or complaint.”
The development comes just hours after Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that detectives were presenting evidence before a Cook County grand jury. Fox and 20th Century Fox Television declined to comment on the new classification.
In response to the news, Smollett’s lawyers said in 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.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Fox and 20th Century Fox TV renewed its defense of the Empire actor, writing in a statement, “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.”
Smollett originally claimed that he was attacked in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago on Jan. 29 by two men in dark clothing who called him homophobic and racial slurs. The Empire actor said the pair punched him, poured bleach on him and slung a noose around his neck while also invoking Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “MAGA” (“Make America Great Again”). One week prior, the actor received a threatening letter at Fox’s Chicago studios. Smollett, who is openly gay, plays a gay musician on Empire named Jamal Lyon.
In the weeks following Smollett’s claim, Chicago police initially identified two suspects, brothers of Nigerian origin [both U.S citizens], one of whom had trained Smollett for a music video. After questioning them, the police released the pair and said that their interviews had “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.”
Three days later, Chicago police confirmed that they were investigating a tip Smollett was seen in an elevator with the two former suspects on the day of the alleged attack. The tip turned out to be unsupported by “video evidence,” according to Guglielmi. wire/agency