In a stunning sequence of events that started when the investigation into an alleged “hate crime” attack took a dramatic turn over the last week, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett is now in police custody after surrendering himself just after 5 a.m. on Thursday morning.
Wednesday evening, the Chicago Police Department announced that the Cook County state attorney’s office officially charged the actor with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
“Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report,” Chicago PD Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi announced on social media Wednesday. “Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest.”
The charge is a Class 4 felony in Illinois and carries a potential of one to three years in prison.
Smollett’s legal team responded with a statement stressing that their client is innocent until proven guilty and vowing to mount an “aggressive defense” of the actor. “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,” they said. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Early Thursday morning, Smollett turned himself in. “Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that Smollett is in custody after surrendering to authorities after 5 a.m.,” Chicago’s ABC7 reports. “Police said they would conduct a news conference at 9 a.m. Smollett is expected to appear in bond court at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.”
ABC notes that police said the actor-singer was accompanied by a female attorney and that “his lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson were not present at the time.”
Smollett told police and the public that he had been viciously attacked by two white Trump supporters wearing masks and MAGA hats in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood at around 2 a.m. on January 29. The attackers, he claimed, assaulted him, threw a chemical on him, and put a noose around his neck while screaming racist and homophobic slurs and declaring “This is MAGA country!” The alleged attack occurred a week after Smollett reported receiving a threatening letter.
Last Wednesday, two “potential suspects” — Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, two American brothers of Nigerian descent who are associates of Smollett — were taken into police custody, but released on Friday without charges. On Saturday, police revealed that the two men were “fully cooperating” with police and that the trajectory of the investigation had shifted. They also announced that they wanted to speak with Smollett again.
The brothers say Smollett paid them to stage the attack. Police reportedly have evidence that the two men bought the rope used in the alleged hoax attack, which sources say they told police they purchased at Smollett’s direction. On Wednesday, CBS Chicago provided video evidence that the two men bought the masks used in the incident.
After Smollett refused to go back in for questioning, a grand jury brought charges against him shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday night.
Along with accusations that he orchestrated the attack with the two brothers and filed a false police report, federal investigators are reportedly looking into the additional claim reportedly made by the Osundairo brothers that Smollett may have committed mail fraud by sending the threatening letter to himself.
This article has been updated to provided more details.