Empire actor Jussie Smollett was charged Wednesday with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report with the Chicago Police Department about a purported attack on himself last month.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office approved the charge, which is a Class 4 felony that carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years. The actor could receive probation instead of jail time, said Guglielmi.
Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest. pic.twitter.com/LvBSYE2kVj
— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
The actor is due in bond court Thursday at 1:30 p.m. local time.
Reacting to the charge, 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 a legal defense,” the statement concluded.
Earlier Wednesday, an attorney representing two brothers implicated in the alleged scheme by Smollett, told reporters that the pair testified before a grand jury for a total of 2 ½ hours. Gloria Schmidt said her clients Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo appeared before the grand jury and did not testify as part of any plea deal with prosecutors. She also stated the two were not granted any immunity from prosecution.
Gloria Schmidt the attorney for the the two brothers says #JussieSmollett is lying and the “truth will set him free” adding she doesn’t know how Jussie Smollett’s conscience lets him sleep at night. pic.twitter.com/xSQSGZNfYm
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 21, 2019
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 21, 2019
Her statements came after police confirmed Smollett was considered a suspect “for filing a false police report.”
Hours prior, Chicago’s local CBS affiliate, WBBM Channel 2, obtained video of the Osundairo brothers purchasing a red hat and ski masks from a store a day before to the alleged attack. The store’s surveillance footage appears to show the two bringing the items to the counter for the cashier to ring up.
I tracked down surveillance of the Osundairo's buying supplies before "attack"
Sources say Jussie Smollet told brothers what to buy.
Countless phone calls placed for this.
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 20, 2019
Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, reported he was physically attacked while he was getting a sandwich around 2 a.m. on January 29 near his home in downtown Chicago. He said the masked men shouted the slurs and yelled “This is MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Smollett also said the attackers poured some kind of chemical on him. Police looked through hours of video surveillance from the area but found no footage of an attack. They did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question.
Not only is Smollett said to have staged his own attack, but may also be behind a threatening letter sent to himself on the set of Empire. WBBM Channel 2 reported on Tuesday that he “orchestrated” the assault after the letter failed to evoke a larger reaction from the public. The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating whether Smollett played a role in the letter’s January 22 delivery. The letter, which possessed powered aspirin and the phrase “Die black fag,” is undergoing analysis at an FBI crime lab, ABC News reported.
Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues, and initial reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and television talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Harris called the alleged attack an “attempted modern day lynching.”
Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison for making false reports, opting instead to place them on probation, particularly if they have no prior criminal record.
However, this is not the first time that Smollett has found himself in legal hot water.
A Los Angeles City Attorney’s office spokesman confirmed to NBC News 10 Tuesday that the actor pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and driving without a license, along with providing false information to authorities in 2007. He was sentenced to probation for two years and given a choice to pay a fine or serve jail time.
Fox 32 Chicago reporter Rafer Weigel tweeted Wednesday that Smollett hired high-powered attorney Mark Geragos, who recently represented former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his lawsuit against the professional football league.
Meanwhile, Fox Television said in a statement that Smollett “continues to be a consummate professional on set” and reiterated that he has not been written out of the show.
Smollett has contended that he has been “100% factual and consistent on every level” regarding the alleged attack. “Despite my frustrations and deep concern with certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been spread, I still believe that justice will be served,” he told ESSENCE magazine in his first statement after the incident.
In his first interview since he reported the attack, Smollett told ABC’s Good Morning America he was targeted due to his very vocal criticism of President Donald Trump and his administration. “I come really, really hard against 45. I come really hard against his administration. I don’t hold my tongue,” Jussie Smollett told interviewer Robin Roberts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.