[UPDATE: March 1, 1:13 p.m. EST]:The Associated Press reports that Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the 16 charges accusing him of an alleged hate crime hoax that occured in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.
The 36-year-old actor, who is free on $100,000 bond, has vehemently denied the allegations, and Smollett’s attornies have stated that the 16 felony indictments are “prosecutorial overkill.”
It was also reported last month that the actor had been cut from ‘Empire’ and will not appear in the final two episodes of the show’s fifth season.
Read our original story below.
In the latest update in the Jussie Smollett hate crime attack saga, the Empire actor has been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, according to The Guardian.
Last month, it was reported that two men had shouted racial and homophobic slurs at Smollett, as well as “This is MAGA country,” before assaulting him with a rope and bleach in the early hours of January 29 as the actor walked to his Chicago apartment. Smollett came out as gay in 2015.
After a grand jury heard evidence that the actor had coordinated the attack, yesterday Smollett was charged by Chicago police and turned himself into police custody this morning. Filing a false police report counts as disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony, and, if convicted, Smollett could face up to three years in prison.
After the alleged attack, police struggled to corroborate Smollett’s story but continued to support him as a victim. The assault wasn’t caught on CCTV, there were no witnesses, and the actor didn’t report the crime from the scene, but rather from his home 40 minutes later, making it difficult to find a lead.
Police asked Smollett for his phone records, as he was on the phone to his manager at the time the alleged attack occurred. However, the actor only provided redacted records, which did “not meet the burden for a criminal investigation.”
Investigators eventually spotted two men in video footage near the attack’s location and tracked them down using ride-sharing data. The police then released a photo of the men. In an interview on Good Morning America, Smollett said of the photo, “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them. Never did.”
It was then discovered that the men were brothers of Nigerian descent, both known to Smollett: one was an extra on Empire, the other was his personal trainer.
Smollett’s lawyers issued a statement, saying, “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. One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.”
Police detained the brothers on February 13 after they returned from a trip to Nigeria. They were released on February 15 and it was announced they were no longer suspects. Yesterday, the brothers gave evidence to a grand jury that they had been paid by Smollett to participate in the attack, leading to the actor being charged.